Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)
Over the years, I have heard a distorted version of “You need to take up your cross” — it was used as a motivational (or guilt-instilling !) pitch to urge people to give more money or to be involved in more church ministry volunteering. I’d try to obey this command with a kind of grim determination, gritting my teeth and getting on with it.
But if being a Christian is a grim duty, then I don’t have much motivation to woo someone towards the Christian life as something beautiful. I was far from saying “this lifestyle is a joy, you should join me.”
Certainly I don’t believe the prosperity gospel’s teaching that Jesus guarantees “your best life now”, but in denying this false teaching I went too far to the other extreme —- I overlooked the ways that Jesus does give something wonderful right now. Remember, he says I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)
Jesus offers a delicious paradox: by living in a sacrificial way, we end up getting so much more!
Jesus’ invitation is great for life during any time frame but especially during the pandemic:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
So I Take up the cross, take on Jesus’ yoke and end up getting rest for my soul.
He is not promising freedom from obstacles, but rather rest during them. I do get a lot, just in a vastly different way than the prosperity gospel says.
Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse!