We adorn our churches with crosses, use them as fashion accessories, and even get into lawsuits over where we can display them. But I think our society has a lot of misconceptions about the cross today.
In the first century, the cross was a repulsive symbol. It was an incredibly horrible way to die. The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they perfected it, so to speak. And they saved crucifixion for the worst of criminals.
If you saw someone surrounded by Roman soldiers and carrying a cross, you knew that person was about to die a horrible, painful, torturous death.
Yet Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34–35 NKJV).
These words of Jesus to His first-century disciples still ring true for His followers today. But what does it mean to take up the cross and follow Him?
Jesus began by saying, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself.” The word deny means to say no to yourself. It means to put God’s will above your own.
What it doesn’t mean is enduring whatever issue or difficulty you may have. That isn’t what it means to bear the cross.
To bear the cross means one thing: deny yourself and put God first.
I’ve been a Christian for 50 years, so I’ve seen a lot of things. As time passes, I’m not so much impressed by charisma as I am by character and longevity. I’m impressed by a Christian who weathers the storms of life and continues to give glory to God because that’s what following Jesus is all about.