In Luke, just after the disciples of Jesus understand him to be the Christ, the Savior talks with them about what it will take to follow him. Jesus knew, and told his followers, that he was going to Jerusalem to be killed. And he told his disciples that the one who truly wishes to follow him must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow.
What does it mean to deny yourself and take up your cross daily? Often, when considering taking up one’s cross, we can talk about big hardships and persecution. After all, a cross was an instrument of execution. Are you willing to die for your faith?
But notice where Jesus takes the concept of following him, taking up your cross, if you will.
Luke 9:23-26 – 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Jesus starts with the concept of taking up your cross. But he quite quickly turns to the idea of shame. Some think that Jesus is telling us, “If somebody puts a gun to your head, be willing to lay down your life rather than deny me.” Of course, this is true. Christians should be willing to die for the honor of the Lord. But Jesus is going for something more day to day.
Jesus says that if we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us. That is not merely martyrdom. This has to do with living for Jesus; living for him in a world that hates him and his ways.
The particular bent of our world is to use language, entertainment, and basic human sinfulness to attempt to mock and discredit the faith at every turn. Christians are not merely opposed to homosexuality as a sinful activity, but are homophobes, people irrationally afraid of a person’s sexuality. Christians are not merely pro-life, opposing the murder of babies, but are now defined as being against a woman’s reproductive rights, healthcare for women. Besides, science tells us that Christian beliefs are irrational, foolish, untenable.
How do you live in this world? How do you live in a world that would just as soon laugh at you as throw something at you? After all, you want to be a well-thought-of person in the community. You want to be respectable. You do not want to be a crazy, a backward person, a religious fanatic. You want the folks at CNN to think of you as cultured, as thoughtful, as different from those other loony religious folks.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Jesus is not telling you just to be willing to die if necessary. He wants you to live for him. That means that you willingly accept the world’s attempt to shame you, not only for being saved by Jesus, but for thinking like Jesus. Jesus is God, the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus is the God who tells us how to think about life, morality, marriage, sexuality, murder, creation, and all the rest. Jesus tells us to believe in things that the world hates. Jesus tells us to reject things the world embraces. Jesus tells us to trust in him, even when the world around us thinks we are nuts.
Being a Christian means that you take up your cross and follow Jesus, even through the world’s ridicule. Yes, it may get to a point that the world tries to shut down your business if you are a Christian—actually, that is already happening. It may get to a place where the world tries to get you fired from any position of influence if you take the Bible seriously—OK, that is happening too. It may get to a place where the world tries to jail you for speaking out against the things that God’s word calls sin—OK, that too. It may get to the place where the world tries to imprison you if you will not deny the faith and to remove you from all semblance of influence in society if you are a Christian. But, dear friends, we must be willing to bear that shame with pride as we follow in the footsteps of our Savior. Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, and accomplished the glorious plan of God to save a people for himself. Let’s be willing to die for him. But let’s also be willing to live for him no matter how crazy the world says we are.