Take Up Your Cross

It’s a famous phrase, found not only in three of the four Gospels, but in hundreds of songs and sermons since. The phrase? “Take up your cross” (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). It’s the singular call of Jesus to all who would follow. It’s non-negotiable. Cross-cultural. Mind-boggling. But he can beckon us to do so, for he bore his. And no doubt that picture brings a host of vivid – and probably negative – mental images to mind. Yes, he took up his cross. Now he asks me to take up mine.

If my guess is correct, right about now you are agreeing with me, but not joyfully. And why would you (or I)? The cross is where cursed men were exposed and executed (Duet 21:23; Gal. 3:13). It’s the place of suffering. Agony. Ultimately, death. And for us to bear ours, well, that can’t be something we would look forward, right? I mean, we’ll “take it up;” after all, we have to. But “don’t expect me to do so with a smile” (we whisper under our breath).

Allow me to shed some light on another angle of cross bearing. Regardless of everything else taking up our cross might mean, it for sure, and at least, means we are always close to it. You can’t bear it without being near it. Really near it. Quite frankly, you have to basically wear it. That’s pretty close!

Guess what? That’s something to smile about! In fact, the closer I am – and stay – to the cross, the more like Jesus I become. So in that regard, taking up my cross is not a drudgery that I endure, but a privilege that I embrace. I get to be close to my Savior! When I consider that aspect of taking up my cross, I run there, splinters and all. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s where Jesus is. Yes, it’s ugly. But it’s where Jesus is. Yes, it’s bloody. But it’s where Jesus is! Yes, it’s offensive. But it’s where Jesus is. Yes, it’s ruthless. Dangerous. Demanding. But it’s where Jesus is. It’s also victorious. Glorious. Powerful. Personal. Bold. Gripping. Life-saving. Life-changing. Eternal. All-sufficient. Transforming. Because it’s where Jesus is. Ah, the cross he asks me to bear is an invitation to be close to him. Really close to him. And like him. Really like him. Tell me, why would I say “no” to an offer like that?!

As the old hymn writer put it, “So I’ll cherish that old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.”

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