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I am willing to bet every Christian has heard or read the verse of Jesus saying, “Take up your cross and follow me.” It is found twice in Matthew (10:38, 16:24) and once in Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23. Most quoted is the one in Luke: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” It is usually quoted with emphasis on daily.

Growing up in our Americanized Christian culture I’ve heard people use the cross as an idiom for their daily struggles in life.

A mother with an unruly son, “He’s just my cross to bear.”

A man bound to a wheelchair, “God’s given me this cross to bear.”

Not making it to the World Series has been the Cub’s cross to bear for years.

A cross to bear means that someone has an unpleasant situation that they, alone, must deal with. When someone has a cross to bear, he cannot share that burden with anyone else. A cross to bear describes an onerous task, a difficult relationship, or a particularly stressful situation.”

The popular use of the idiom, “cross to bear” in our culture ranges from trivial to dramatic situations. Most tend to use the expression to describe their day-to-day struggles.

Bearing your cross as Jesus calls us to is more than suffering through our daily struggles. It is as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said the call from Jesus is, “Come and die.”

When Jesus said this to his disciples, they knew exactly what he was saying. Crucifixion was not just an execution of the state, it was used especially for dissidents, rebels, outcasts. The disciples have seen many self-proclaimed messiahs crucified, many revolutionaries, many slaves. Jesus was calling his disciples to a life of struggle – one that more than likely would lead to death.

Though, this is not struggle for the sake of struggle. It is a call to struggle on behalf of others.

Studying the Way of Jesus we will see his effort for the poor, downtrodden, outcasts, the sick and lame, the imprisoned. His ministry was to bring and proclaim the good news of his kingdom to the dredges of society. And not only that, but suffer for their sake: humiliation, shame, torture, and death.

Jesus calls us to do the same. Not as a means to earn our place in his kingdom, but as a means in making us and molding us into what a citizen of the kingdom looks like: one who is for the other. The Way of Jesus, the way of suffering for the sake of others, is our discipleship.

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