Something struck me in church this past Sunday. It hit me before the sermon even began--I think the thought may have come out of a song. Maybe it was the jewelry someone was wearing. It was probably connected to something my wife asked a few weeks ago: when did the cross become a pretty, gold item instead of an instrument of death?
Christ told His followers to pick up their cross and follow Him. For many people, that has become hanging a 24 karat gold chain around their neck. The prosperity gospel being preached reinforces that for us: if we follow Jesus, we'll get the gold.
When Jesus told us to pick up our cross, He knew full well that the cross was a cruel instrument of torture and suffering. He also knew it was the way He was called to give God's love to each of us. The cross isn't about us getting wealthy; we're called to the cross to love others as Jesus did. The way of suffering is to bring love.
The sermon on Sunday was a strong reminder that we are called to love each other--that being a neighbor is an activity, not just a state of proximity to someone. We are told to not love with words or tongue, but to love with actions and in truth. Sometimes--maybe more often than we realize--that means we need to give up somethings: time, our comfort, our own agenda, even our money and possessions.
Christ's call to follow Him is a call to share in His sufferings. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. He calls us to weigh the cost of following Him. But the way of the cross is also the way of love. Love for God, love from God, love for us, love for our neighbors. Sounds like a way to make life a little better for everyone--even if there is some suffering along the way.