The Call of the Cross

Oh the wonderful cross,
Oh the wonderful cross,
Bids me come and die
And find that I may truly live.
Oh the wonderful cross,
Oh the wonderful cross,
All who gather here by grace draw near
And bless your name.

The believer’s cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the bearing of which is demanded. The believer’s cross must be, like his Lord’s, the price of his social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of a path freely chosen after counting the cost…it is the social reality of representing in an unwilling world the Order to come.
— John Howard Yoder from The Politics of Jesus

After nearly 20 years of following Jesus, an understanding has taken root. I’ve heard these words all of my life, but I’ve only recently begun to understand them. I wonder if I can embrace them.

Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

For too long, I’ve viewed the cross primarily as an icon of atonement. I’ve only recently begun to understand that the cross isn’t reserved for Jesus. The cross is an invitation — an invitation to Kingdom life, to be sure, but a strange one at that. As we sometimes sing, the cross “bids me come and die and find that I may truly live.” Indeed, the cross is the end of a path freely chosen. It signifies my death — my continual, perpetual, daily death. The cross becomes my identifying mark as a disciple of Christ. And the cross continues to call me nearer to the heart of Jesus. This is no small thing. It is a challenging call. To wit…

The cross calls me to be more concerned with distributing and sharing and less concerned about accumulating and hoarding.

The cross calls me to pray for those who would persecute me.

The cross calls me to turn the other cheek in the face of violence.

The cross calls me to love my enemies rather than drop bombs on them.

The cross calls me to seek reconciliation rather than harbor animosity.

The cross calls me to abandon my prejudices and my judgmental attitude.

The cross calls me to value all people — men, women, children, Americans, illegal immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Republicans, Democrats, prostitutes, homosexuals, alcoholics, atheists, legalists, liberals, conservatives, Baptists, Buddhists, the poor, the pious, the homeless, the orphaned, the disenfranchised, the least of these — for each one bears the image of God.

The cross calls me to speak out against injustice and intolerance.

The cross calls me to roll up my sleeves and do something.

The cross calls me to identify with suffering since no servant is greater than his master.

The cross calls me to lay down my pride, my greed, my ambition and my anger and to put on humility, contentment, simplicity and joy.

The cross calls me to mediate peace.

The cross calls me to crave mercy.

The cross calls me to love in radical ways.

The cross calls me to bear witness to His goodness.

The cross calls me to seek His glory, His fame and His renown.

The cross calls me to be the in-breaking of the Kingdom.

The cross calls me to follow Jesus.

The cross calls me to die.

This is a difficult call. Too hard for most. It’s as if following Jesus has to be paramount, the only thing that truly matters.

Such is the call of the cross.

This entry was posted in Devotional, Discipleship, Jesus, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Call of the Cross

  1. sunny says:

    Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are able to pick up our cross daily to follow Him.

  2. scott says:

    Great thoughts, Jason. The way of Christ stands in such stark contrast to how the world tells us to live.I wrestle daily with the implications of this.But it is the only way to truly live.

  3. jon says:

    The call of the cross is a ‘deep down’, ‘who’s in charge’, gut check. To echo the sermon yesterday..”are you going to do what is right, and are you going to let Jesus tell you what’s right”. Great thoughts. Not a popular opinion about dropping bombs and loving Muslims but non-the-less a correct statement. One question though…Where do you draw the line of turning the other cheek and defending yourself?

  4. Jason says:

    Good question, Jon. I’m on my way home right now…I’ll mull it over and post a response tonight.

  5. Jason says:

    Jon,These days, I’m tending toward a position of radical non-violence. It’s probably the result of some of the things I’ve been reading lately, but I think we tend to overspiritualize Jesus’ words. I think when he says “Turn the other cheek,” he’s addressing this very question. The cross stands as a stark reminder of the great lengths Jesus went to in order to redeem us. Praise God He didn’t retaliate. Praise God He didn’t defend Himself. Rather, He absorbed the abuse and scorn He faced out of love. I think His disciples should adopt the same attitude. Your thoughts?

  6. jon says:

    Shooting from the hip here. I think that when it comes to defending my family and myself from bodily harm then I am going to do that at all costs. When it comes to a social injustice or an attack on a personal level (ie. behavior called to question, morals, ethics) that is when we let it go and let our actions speak. Aren’t we called to be ‘above reproach’?

  7. jon says:

    Another thought here about defending our families. How would you apply the verse 1 Timothy 5:8 about providing for you immediate family. Provide financially? physically? safety?

  8. Jason says:

    Jon,My natural reaction in defense of my family would be similar to yours, I’m sure. In fact, since we’ve had kids, I’ve envisioned all sorts of fearful scenarios where I would likely be pressed to defend. The prophets were extremely concerned with injustice and oppression and I would have a difficult time sitting by idly and allowing someone to act unjustly or oppressively to another, especially with regard to my family. But I also cannot easily discard the words of Jesus when He calls us to absorb rather than retaliate. I don’t have all this worked out in my head yet, but I think this tension I feel is good and I like where it’s leading.In the specific context of Timothy, I think Paul is instructing those people who have means to provide for their relatives. It’s skirting your responsibility to your family to allow the church to provide for them when you have the means. I see what you’re saying, but I’m not sure that I could make the jump that this text advocates physically defending one’s family.

  9. jon says:

    How would you apply ‘turn the other cheek’ principle when Jesus cleared the temple? I think that we must defend our families from harm but we must be careful to what extent we defend. While the thought of a horrible act occuring to my family because of someone else evokes a certain ‘rage’ to defend I know deep down that I could not ‘kill’ a person for that but I am certainly not going to sit there and let someone rape my wife or molest my kids when I can step in and stop it. If I am not there one of these things occur I am not going to pull a Samuel L. Jackson and blast them on their way into court but rather I would hope I would be able to have the mind of Jesus and say ‘Father, forgive him/her for they know not what they do’ for me that is turning the other cheek when it concerns my family. There are more important matters in life than making sure that ‘I’ exact revenge. It is not my job to dole out justice. I think my blabbering is summed up in Proverbs 25:22.

  10. Jason says:

    I think Jesus cleared the temple as an act of righteous indignation, but it was not a violent act in the sense that it brought physical harm to others. But I hear what you’re saying. And again, if my wife and kids were in harm’s way and there was simply no other course of action than to defend them, then I would resign myself to doing what I could to protect them. But too often we adopt a similar “the-end-justifies-the-means” attitude with regard to acts of war. I think that’s dangerous. On another note, I think this conversation is painting non-violence in a passive light and I would disagree with that. A nonviolent approach is by no means passive or easy or cowardly.

  11. jon says:

    It takes much much more restraint and a deeper faith to ‘turn the other cheek’ than it does to retaliate. It takes some thought and thorough understanding of what Jesus calls us to do.

  12. Scott Freeman says:

    Jason, I blogged about this today. I’d love your thoughts on the matter.

  13. Jason says:

    I left you a comment, man. Check it out.

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