Our Lord has said that if we are to follow Him, we too must pick up our cross. This could be intimidating, an invitation to suffer. Actually, it is just the common sense wisdom of human life. We have to sacrifice to achieve anything worth having in life. In other words, there are no free rides. In practical terms, what might this mean? It would seem that there are three broad categories:
1) The cross of inconvenience. It is useless to pray for anything if we are not willing to put ourselves out to help bring it about. We can’t sit back & leave it up to God. We are after all, His instruments. If my mother is sick & I pray that she gets better, but have not taken her to the doctor, I have not prayed as a cross-bearing Christian. If I pray for peace but do not openly forgive those who have hurt me, how can God bring about peace?
2) The cross of bearing witness under pressure. In a world of conformity, this can be tough. Teens especially have a fear of being different, but no one is immune. The tyrannies such as shunning are there to enforce conformity. Do we have the courage to follow Paul’s advice “Do not conform yourself to this age?” Not many. As the pressure increases, the cross of witness gets heavier.
3) The third cross is martyrdom, which has been distinguished into two types: (a) wet or red martyrdom, which means shedding your blood for truth, for Jesus. History is replete with those who did that. (b) Then there is dry or white martyrdom wherein there is no blood shed, but a wounding of the spirit. In some ways this can be harder than the former since it is not limited in duration. It means surrendering our security for Jesus, the martyrdom of grace under pressure.
The psychiatrist & author Robert Coles interviewed a little black girl in the early years of the civil rights movement. She had been escorted to a formerly segregated school. She was subjected to a great deal of harassment. Hate words were scrawled on nearby walls & fences near her street, & threats were made to her family. On her way to school each day she was subjected to catcalls, harsh stares, & obscene gestures. This was a lot of pressure for anyone, much less a small child.
Visiting her modest home, Coles asked her how she kept her composure. She replied that she knew all the Bible stories of holding fast to God no matter what people did to you. She knew what they did to Jesus & how He held fast. So she just put everything into His hands, she said. He was her rock.
People of honor like this student, whistle-blowers in government & business, those who sacrifice jobs & livelihood to hold onto principles – all bear the heavy cross of bloodless martyrdom. The is daunting, but remember, there is the promise which follows: “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The Christian path is as complex & as simple as that. AMEN!