Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for them that love him.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Embracing Your Cross

All Christians are familiar with and occasionally mention this Biblical quote, "Take up your cross."

Here is the full quote from Jesus (Luke 9: 23-24):

And he said to all, "If any man 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; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.

What does this mean?  We say it.  We should know what it means.  

It is not simply a matter of fatalistic suffering.

The cross is an instrument of immense suffering resulting in death.  To take up our crosses daily is to die, daily, to our very selves.  It is to accept pain, suffering, and death to be as much a part of God's plan for our salvation as comfort, peace, and life.

We humans think everything should be rosy.  We think that "goodness" and "suffering" are mutually exclusive.  "If it feels good, do it," is our motto.  "Pursuit of happiness" is our sacrament.

It is natural for us to feel this way.  We were created, ultimately, for heaven.  Our hearts long for their heavenly home which is perfect.  In fact, even our earthly home was, originally, a beautiful garden.  To accept pain and death seems unnatural.  


So what happened?

Through the sin of our first parents, suffering and death entered humanity (Gen 3: 17-19; Rom 5:12).  We are fallen.  This must have shocked God, who created us to enjoy perfect love in heaven.  How was He to allow us, fallen and sinful, into heaven, where nothing unclean can enter?  That darned Eve ruined everything...


John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

This is, perhaps, the most well known verse in Scripture.  God's plan, known to Him from the very beginning, included His incarnation, torture, and death.  Through the greatest evil, Deicide, God brings forth our greatest good, salvation.  

This wasn't a simple legal transaction.   Christ was not simply our scapegoat, taking on our iniquities before execution.  

Jesus demonstrated, for us, perfect love and humble obedience.  

The sin of Adam and Eve was not a result of God's bias against apples.  They gave in to pride and disobedience.  They bought the lies of the adversary and put their will before God's will.  They disobeyed the one simple rule God gave them.

In stark contrast, Jesus was "obedient unto death, even death on a cross."  Phil 2:8

This was no simple instruction like you can eat anything except that fruit.  This was the ultimate act of obedience and love.  God's plan was brutal torture and death.  Jesus even prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Mt 26:39

Jesus humbly accepted the will of the Father.  We must do the same.   We must trust that God's plan is perfect.  We must trust when He promises, "All things work for good for those who love God."

We must embrace our crosses, humbly accepting God's plan in our lives.


Rejoice

In Col 1:24 Paul states,  "Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church...."  

We can join our sufferings and pains to Christ's infinite sacrifice on the cross.  Through Christ, they become redemptive.  For this, we can rejoice.

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