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Taking Up the Cross of Love – Part 1

March 10, 2012

In Mark 8:34, it says, “[Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”

He had a vitally important lesson to teach. Jesus has just told the disciples that he is going to lay down his life for them. Here, he tells them that he wants them, as his disciples, to follow him in this path of self-giving love.

Lindy Black comments: “You don’t have to look for ways to carry the cross. Just choose love, truth and justice and suffering will come.”

C. S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves adds:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

Taking up the cross as Jesus’ disciples means being willing to suffer for the sake of love.

It means being willing to suffer for the sake of our relationship of love with God.

This includes repentance, yes. But I’m thinking of something even deeper. I’ve been reading recently about what Richard Foster in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home calls “the prayer of the forsaken.” A well-known example of this prayer occurs in Psalm 22, which we read earlier in our Service today and remembered that our Lord Jesus offered up in anguish on the Cross. All of us know what this is like: when you pray, and your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling back to you. We have to be willing to endure this suffering for the sake of love – for a real relationship with God.

Foster explains:

[When we are suffering this way,] we are entering into a living relationship that begins and develops in mutual freedom. God grants us perfect freedom because God desires creatures who freely choose to be in relationship with God. Through the Prayer of the Forsaken we are learning to give God the same freedom. Relationships of this kind can never be manipulated or forced. If we could make the Creator of heaven and earth instantly appear at our beck and call, we would not be in communion with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We do that with objects, with things, with idols.

So we suffer out of our love for God.

Taking up the cross also means being willing to suffer out of our love of one another.

Elizabeth Stone writes: “Making the decision to have a child is … to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” All we who are parents can say “Amen” to this!

This past week I visited a woman in hospital who is extremely ill. In fact, her family was told that it is very unusual for someone in her condition to still be living. They are convinced that what is keeping her alive is her willingness to fight with Herculean strength to continue to be with them. She is willing to go through all of this suffering out of her love for them.

Don’t we want to give our all like this? To be poured out, to wear out, not rust out? No one at the end of their life ever says, “I wish I hadn’t loved so much!”

This dear person inspires me. If she can be willing to suffer like this to be with her family, then can’t I be willing to go through whatever hardships I might encounter – irritation, needs to forgive, and the like – for the sake of my love for them?

Today we’re remembering Saint David, who lived in Wales in the 6th century. He was known for his holiness, simple lifestyle, and wisdom and power as a teacher and preacher. David died on March 1, which is why his feast is celebrated on this day. His last words were in a sermon on the previous Sunday: “Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.” From this, “Do the little things in life” became and continues today to be a very well known phrase in Welsh.

This is our calling: Do the little things in life … out of love.

We are only here once. Each day is a gift from God. Why not give ourselves wholeheartedly? Why hold back? Why not use every ounce of strength we have, every thought, every breath to God and God’s way of love?

(This is adapted from the sermon at our March 4 Services. Living out our discipleship by taking up the cross of love in the little things in life is the theme of the video embedded below.)

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