The main essay at the recent AZ-CA district convention was on the topic of the Theology of the Cross, especially as written about in Prof. Deutschlander’s book. My husband preached on that topic last Sunday in church. He made a point that I have known but often forget.
Jesus’ words about his followers denying themselves and carrying their crosses is a familiar statement to many Christians, but I’m so sure we always understand what Jesus means. The cross Jesus refers to is not just the problems we face in life. Believers and unbelievers have problems. Everyone gets sick; everyone has trials and challenges; everyone ultimately has to deal with death. But here is the difference: When Jesus talks about the cross, he is talking about the problems we face because we are Christians. He is talking about everything we suffer as a result of our faith in him. That’s our cross.
That struck me. When I (or someone else) experience problems, it’s easy to blithely say, “Oh, we all have our crosses to bear!” But, a true cross is something that we suffer due to our faith. A cross might be some kind of persecution or hardship that we endure because of our faith. But a cross could also be a temptation we struggle against because we’re trying to deny our sinful nature to follow Christ.
Furthermore, all true Christians will have a cross that they bear. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” As my husband put it in his sermon:
Every one of you has your own cross, your own set of challenges and problems that result from your faith in Jesus Christ. Your cross may look very different than another person’s cross, but the axiom is true: No cross, no Christian! And finally, Jesus says that cross-carrying is something that we do daily—not annually, not every so often, not during certain seasons of life, but day by day.
That’s a sobering reminder, especially for people who believe that having faith means your earthly life will be better and easier. Sadly, famous preachers have based their entire “ministry” (I purposely use that term loosely) and led many away from Christ by promoting that concept – that faith in God will give you Your Best Life Now.
I guess I’m getting to a point in my adulthood where I’m realizing that life always has problems and hardships, and it’t not realistic to expect that to change. That makes me feel … old. But I can see how it also drives me continually back to God, looking for his help to face the problems and difficulties in my day. And, that’s truly what being a Christian is all about. It’s about returning to God again and again for forgiveness, receiving that forgiveness, trying again, and looking forward to the perfect life that we will one day enjoy forever in heaven. All the while, still trusting that God loves us and cares for us every moment of our lives, and that he’s making everything work together for our spiritual good.
That’s a lot of heavy thoughts. I’m glad heaven is waiting for me at the end of all of this.