The text this week has a very popular phrase that many of us might have heard if we grew up Christian which is "Take up your Cross and Follow me." It is easy to forgot what the cross stood for in Jesus' time, which was death and social stigma. If you had a family member who was crucified, it put the whole family to shame. This is different from today, where many people view the cross as a fashion accessory. What this saying reminds us about is that following Jesus is hard work and can put us into situations, were we are derided, shamed, physically assaulted, or even killed. Many of our African, Asian, and Middle Eastern brothers and sisters, know about these threats all too well. In America where there is freedom of religion as well as a Christian underpinning, we don't experience this as much. This doesn't mean that we don't ever experiences this.
I have many friends, who have worked to help people with drug and alcohol abuse. They have told me stories about in their quest to help them, get these people other resources, and to be there support network they have been ridiculed by others for helping these people out. "Why help out that scum bag, don't you realize how awful of a person they are?" "What is wrong with you helping out somebody who is just using you?" "Why bother, they will never quit!" These are some of the questions they hear all the time, from friends, coworkers, and even family members of the people they are helping.
This doesn't even cover the times when the people they are trying to help, get physical or verbal with them about trying to help them. They say stuff like "You drink, how can you be a hypocrite and tell me not too?" "I hate you!" "Why are you trying to ruin my life?" However, these fine folks feel God's pull to be in this field to help people as nurses, social workers, and counselors. They remember that Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus didn't just say love the likable neighbors, no he said all the neighbors even the ones who are struggling.
So when you pick up your cross this week and follow Jesus this week, what is that going to look like? How do you put your faith on the line to follow Jesus? How do you begin to follow Jesus command to love your neighbor, yes even the neighbors who are struggling; the neighbors that nobody else loves; and the neighbors who are all out of hope? This is hard work but this is what Jesus commands us to do when he asks us to pick up his cross and follow him.
Pastor Paul. I hope you find these reflections insightful and help you in your faith journey!