Take Up Our Cross?

A reading for Wednesday, August 5, 2015: Mark 8:34-9:1.

The cross is a very strange symbol for faith. It is of course the symbol of capital punishment by crucifixion which was invented by the Persians or Carthaginians. The Roman empire adopted the practice as a way not only to kill enemies of Rome, but also to humiliate them and intimidate others into compliance. The person being crucified was stripped naked and the cross was placed by a crossroads or other public place. Those that were crucified endured a long and very painful death, hanging on the cross for weeks if not months suffering until dead. Sometimes a person's legs were broken with an iron bar to further inflict pain, which would bring death more quickly but also then the dying person would moan and wail on the cross. It was total humiliation and dehumanizing, but was also very intentional as a symbol of deterrence for anyone considering rebellion against Rome.

Jesus said, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." As much has we don't want to face it, this means that we take up suffering for the sake of others as a means to follow Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for a purpose... for you and for me. This too is our calling, not to be self-flagelatting, but because Jesus suffered on our behalf, so we suffer for others. When others see us wearing a cross around our neck the message is, "Yes, I will suffer for you and for your benefit."

I wonder how this would change the practice of Christian faith in North America if we took seriously Jesus' words to "take up our cross?" What would it mean to truly be humiliated, to endure pain, and to suffer for the sake of others?


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