Pastor J. Stephen Fountain, Largs Church of the Nazarene

'Take Up your Cross'

This past Sunday, one of the things we talked about at LargsNaz was the way that Jesus (more than once) tells his followers in the gospel of Matthew to “take up their cross” and follow Him. And when he does so, Jesus is referring to what literally happened in crucifixions. And it is true that for many followers of Jesus, a literal crucifixion awaited them. History is filled with accounts of disciples of Jesus who were called upon to give that last full measure of devotion and become literal martyrs for the Kingdom.

But being executed is not the only way to give one’s life as a sacrifice. There are certainly those followers of Jesus who have had their lives cut short, but there are others who have lived long lives as martyrs, pouring out their lives each and every day in service to God and to others, setting aside their own agendas for the abundance of a life everlasting.

It’s important to be clear about what “taking up your cross” doesn’t mean, however. It does not mean avoiding or shunning life’s joys and blessings; it does not mean wrapping yourself in a dark, dour cloak of legalism and self-righteousness, and calling that “self-sacrifice.” It does not mean staying in an unhealthy relationship or a situation in which you are abused, and wearing that like a badge of honour as “your cross to bear.”

But what it DOES mean to take up your cross is to understand bravely that we are mortal. And in the face of that hard truth not to turn away in fear or despair, but to walk the road toward our inevitable death with intention and purpose and meaning in the hope of the resurrection. To lose one’s life in order to find.

Taking up one’s cross is not a call to live a life of pitiful resignation and morbidity. It is a call to Carpe Diem—to seize the day—to “redeem the time” as the Apostle Paul and John Wesley put it. Not to live lives of quiet desperation, not to be those who when they come to die find that they had not lived, but to be those who live lives of bold generosity, given over and spilled out for the sake of eternity. Jesus’ call remains today, “take up your cross and follow me”.