Matthew 10:38 “…anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Following Jesus means carrying a cross. This is unavoidable for the Christian. In order to follow Jesus, we give up certain things, and that always pinches a little, sometimes a lot. We pass up some opportunities for pleasures. Sometimes they are sinful. Sometimes they simply fall down the Christian’s priority list and we don’t get to them. We may give up business advantages at times because we are no longer looking out only for ourselves, but for what serves my neighbor.
Depending on where they live, Christians may not get to be popular. Others may not accept them. Those who are open about their faith on university campuses may find themselves accused of bigotry or ignorance. Those who live their faith at work may jeopardize their careers. A friend of mine was criticized, and eventually let go from his job, because he “wasn’t making an effort to be a part of the team.” His employer’s issue with him? He didn’t join his coworkers in visiting strip clubs each night after work.
One Christian blogger shared some of the hate mail he received in a blog post. While accusing this blogger of being hateful, the emails expressed a desire for the man to be dead, hurt, or sexually brutalized. Some wished for him to burn in Hell for all eternity. A few threatened to kill him for his ideology.
Jesus is worth it. When he says that those who refuse the cross are “not worthy of me,” he is not saying that we “earn” something by our suffering. God’s grace is still free. But you can’t “have” Jesus, you can’t believe in him and follow him, without there being consequences. If I gave you some free food, you can’t eat the food without also ingesting the calories that come along with it (though we may wish that were possible). The food was free, but the calories come along as a consequence. The only way to avoid the calories is not to eat the food.
If I had a swimming pool, I could let you swim in it for free, but you can’t swim in it without getting wet. The swimming is free, but you get wet as a consequence. The only way to avoid getting wet is not to swim.
If two countries were at war, you may be free to pick a side. But you can’t pick sides without making the other country your enemy. You get the picture.
It is possible to avoid the cross that comes with following Jesus. But you have to give him up in order to do it. It’s a package deal.
Jesus promises he is worth it. Crosses come into our lives as a consequence, but that is not the only consequence. Your 70, 80, or 90 years of earthly trouble will be replaced by an eternity of heavenly bliss. That’s a no-risk guarantee. Even now he promises freedom from carrying your guilt with you everywhere. You have been justified. He promises relief from the uncertainty and frustration of trying to work your way into God’s favor. Forgiveness is free. He promises peace in knowing that all of life is lived under the umbrella of God’s love. Angels are always protecting and watching. Prayer gives immediate access to God at all times. The Holy Spirit permanently resides in Christian hearts to help with resisting temptation and understanding God’s word.
These things, too, belong to the package deal, so value your Savior. He is worth all your crosses.