Carrying Our Cross
“ And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
When we think of this verse, we often conceive of it as a burden or punishment. A common phrase in our society is “We all have a cross to bear” usually said with a sigh and in reference to some difficulty in our lives. It might be illness, poverty, a wayward loved one, or some other discomfort or even disaster in life. But, it is always looked upon in a negative light, as though we as Christians are meant to lift up our great burdens upon our backs, and trudge along up the hill after Christ.
It’s not much wonder that we have this image in mind when we hear this verse. We preach the cross in our churches as an instrument of torture, agony and bloodshed. I’ve even heard Christianity referred to as a death cult because we have as one of our main symbols this device used for bringing about excruciating death. This verse also does come just after Christ’s revelation to His disciples that he was going to die. But, is this really what the cross means, the agonizing death of an innocent man? Does the image of Christians lifting their burdens each day to trudge along to their deaths really fit the rest of the Gospel message? Or does the cross mean something else?
While we may preach a crucified Christ, the crucifixion had a purpose. It was not meant to be view as a symbol of shame, torture and pain, it was atonement. That’s another word we often misunderstand in today’s world. When we think of atonement, we think of sin and crime, shame and guilt. The dictionary has a different definition of this word, both the current, and the Strong’s dictionary that helps with understanding Bible translations. Atonement means reconciliation. That was the point of the cross, not to heap shame upon us, but to nail every single sin of mankind to it so that we could be reconciled, at one with God.
If we look at this verse in the light of the meaning of the cross, it is not a burden. It is instead an instruction. We deny our ungodly selves, let go of our sinful lives, take up the reconciliation Christ made possible, and follow His commands so that we can be redeemed, as He was. It is not a message of shame and guilt, it is one of joy and hope. We are to be aware that we will daily struggle with sin. But, we have been reconciled to God, once and for all. Christ has gone ahead of us to be our high priest. We are to follow His commands with confidence, knowing that we have been made whole, and we are being redeemed.
Lest we think that we can wait, and redemption only comes after death, remember that Scripture also tells us that we have already been made new. This life as well as the next can be redeemed, but only as we follow the Word that became flesh to give us our cross. Be blessed and be a blessing.
Father, we thank you for the cross you have given each of us, bringing us into harmony with Your plans for us, making us new creations. Please help us to resist the sins that tempt us daily. Help us to keep our eyes set firmly on Christ, and walk boldly on the paths You have prepared for us. We pray this in the Name of our redeemer, Jesus Christ
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