I’m not one to break down a verse in the Bible, dissect it, break it down historically, and then present it to you in a whole new light. That’s not my game. So I often hesitate to directly use scripture when I write, in fear that I make someone more theologically based than I am shake their head in disgust. I’ve always enjoyed the simplicity of the whole thing. It is true that the Bible can be dissected, translated ever so slightly, and be broken down historically in order for us to see it in a new light, and that is really great and I really appreciate the people that do that, but at the same time the Bible is what it is and it says what it says. In other words, Jesus doesn’t speak the way Emily Dickinson writes poetry. He says what he means directly, you don’t have to read it over and over again in order to figure out what he is talking about. Then again, maybe I just don’t get poetry either. But when he says in Luke 9 to deny yourself, to take up your cross daily, and to follow Him, it is pretty clear what he is saying.
Before Jesus became trendy and people wore crosses on their necks and had them tattooed on their body regardless of their lifestyle, the cross was a symbol of torture (see also: crucifixion of Jesus) to the people of His time. When Jesus spoke these words, He knew what was going to happen to him, he knew how it was going to go down. When people were put to death in those days, they saved the cross for the worst of them. It was an endurance trial of torture, so when Jesus says (he doesn’t ask) to take up your cross, he isn’t saying put on your necklace and try to be nice to people, he is telling us to be ready for the worst day of your life. Then after that, go to bed and when you wake up get ready for a worse day.
Rinse and repeat.
I don’t remember the last time I had a good day in terms of being a Christian, I always seem to be screwing up somehow; and what is even worse is I don’t remember the last time I had a bad day for Christ either. Hell, I don’t even know what it really means to take up my cross in a literal sense in today’s society. I don’t know what it means to get dirty and tired in the name of Jesus.
I could dive into this text, make a few translation changes maybe, and figure out a happy medium for me and Jesus to coexist on, but that’s not the way Jesus wants it. He wants to exist, there is no coexist with his name in it.
In a life filled with routine and habit, I can honestly say I don’t know what it means to follow Jesus the way he has called us to. Maybe that is why I write, because I rarely write in a definitive tone but rather a curious one, a tone that is just as confused as you are in this whole process. I heard one time that true creative people are scared as hell of what they create and that the people who aren’t serious about their creations are wildly self-confident. I could say that goes for my relationship as well, and since I am scared as hell of what Jesus has in store for me than I must be on the right track.
Maybe Jesus just wants us to be nice to that person who bugs us. Maybe he means for us to begrudgingly forgive the people that wrong us. But maybe these things clear our minds and give us something to distract our spiritual lives with from the things Jesus is actually calling us to do. What does it mean to take up our cross? What does it mean to deny ourselves?
I hate writing these things because I know I don’t have the answer. All I know is Jesus is waiting on me to dig my cross up and to follow him. As a citizen of the Bible belt, I don’t know what it would look like for me to risk my life for the sake of a Kingdom I believe in. And if you asked me on a Thursday after a rough week, I’d probably say that I don’t want to know what that looks like.
Maybe the reason we always call on Jesus when we are at our lowest is because that is where we feel most natural. Maybe the reason I only pray when I need something is because it is in my DNA to do so, thus, if I always needed help then I would always need God. Maybe our lives, right here right now, are way too Nerf and soft and comfortable for us to truly understand what Jesus is talking about. Like I’ve said before, it is difficult to be a citizen of one place when your heart belongs in the Kingdom.
The second most dangerous thing we could do in this situation would be to ask God what are crosses look like, where we can find them, and ask where He is headed next.
The most dangerous thing?