Sometime ago, a pastor friend of mine in California was preaching the Sunday after Christmas. As was the custom in his church, the Christmas decorations were still up for one more service. Behind the pulpit there usually hung a large wooden cross, but for the holidays it was replaced with a large Christmas wreath. This Sunday my pastor friend was particularly passionate in his preaching. Speaking on the forgiveness offered us through the cross of Christ he even become animated and pounded the pulpit a little. He then built up to a conclusion by shouting: “And it is all because of what Jesus did on…” He turned dramatically and faced a giant Christmas wreath. In utter shock he exclaimed: “WHERE’S THE CROSS!”
Good question. In fact it is one that I have been asking myself these days. According to Jesus, if anyone would come after Him, a cross should be visible somewhere. So where is my cross? Where are the marks of sacrifice and self denial most visible in my Christian walk?
Calvin Miller, one of my favorite pastors of all time, has said: “Cross-bearing is to stand at the imperative center of my discipleship. My baptismal certificate can tell me that I have been baptized. A form letter tells me that I am a church member. But only a cross borne on my back tells me that I am a disciple. No cross…no claim of belonging to God.
What did Jesus mean when he said that we should take up a cross? He was not referring to a dainty trinket dangling from a gold chain. … Our cross is something vital for the Lord of the kingdom. For Stephen, it was martyrdom. For Paul, it meant making his own defense before Nero. For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it meant being hanged by the Nazis. For Jim Elliot, it was an inspired attempt to draw God’s circle of love around savage tribesman. For William Wallace, it was death in a communist’s prison cell. I can see that it is wrong to refer to the trivial things of my life as “my cross.” That which I give up for Lent is not my cross. A toothache is not my cross. The lack of some particular talent that would add energy or charm to my personality is not my cross. Before I hastily designate anything as “my cross,” I must ask myself what a cross really is. I must look at his Cross and then ask myself what I have offered him by way of sacrifice, humility, and obedience.” (Once Upon a Tree, pp. 115-116.)
Is the cross the imperative center of your discipleship? Is your life marked by self denial and determination to follow Jesus? Where’s your cross?