“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
Through last week’s observance of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Christians have focused on the cross – the instrument of death that Jesus transformed into a symbol of life.
Ever since, Jesus commands his disciples to take up their cross daily and follow him.
“Taking up one’s cross” has meant literal death for some of his followers. In every century, people in pulpits and pews have surrendered to martyrdom as a cost of faithful obedience.
For most Christians, however, “taking up one’s cross” emphasizes the “daily” aspect of Jesus’ statement. Its normative application means surrendering one’s life one small act of will at a time.
Taking up one’s cross daily may look like a mother’s changing countless diapers, cleaning endless spit-ups, sacrificing untold nights of sleep to comfort a croupy child.
Or it may look like a father’s interrupting his ambition to take a lesser job that allows him to be at home with his family most nights while still providing adequately – if not as proudly – for their physical needs.
For some, the cross involves giving up a needed job rather than play loose with their ethics, trusting God to provide even when prospects look bleak.
One person’s daily cross may be cheerfully enduring the indignities and inconveniences of a disability, forcefully forging a habit of gratitude in moments when complaint and protest are more natural responses.
Another person’s cross may be enduring complaints themselves – as a nurse, a police officer, a sales clerk.
The cross of some may be praying faithfully and fervently – day in and day out – over seemingly fruitless decades for the redemption of rebellious offspring or obstinate mates.
Even inside our church homes, the daily cross that most Christians are called to bear may include ignoring thoughtless or intentional hurts for the sake of collective peace, of enduring doubt without despair, of speaking up when it’s uncomfortable and holding our tongues when our egos scream otherwise.
Whether it be in an ultimate act of heroism or in countless daily sacrifices, Jesus tells his followers, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Like the cross of Calvary, the cross that Christians are urged to carry daily is a symbol of dying to self for the sake of life.