“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
I begin this devotional with a question that cuts to the depths of my soul and possibly yours too. What is my cross? What is your cross? I recognize that a cross can be many different things for each of us at various times of our lives. Yet it seems that one thing is for certain. A cross always means sacrifice, and sacrifice is not a popular topic to any of us.
Jesus asks his disciples both then and now to sacrifice. This is why we are asked to count the cost — because the Christian life is worth our commitment in terms of our time, attention, and money. Jesus is not talking about our salvation when he asks us to pick up our cross and follow him. That was finished when he died on his cross. It was completed by God’s grace alone. He is talking about the cost of our discipleship –what it actually costs us to follow Jesus.
Everything we think is important in life is costly. We make sacrifices so our children can have a good education. We stay up nights to help them with their homework, or we make sure that they are preparing for an exam by helping them study for it. We make sacrifices to be trained in order to get a better job, one that is gratifying and one that pays more.
We are accustomed to sacrificing for those things we value. I know a lot of parents who give up nearly every weekend for their kids’ travelling sports team, and sometimes those sports also require a big financial commitment. I know lots of career-minded folks who put in long hours in jobs they don’t love in order to secure their futures or just to make ends meet. Lots of people spend hard-earned money to join a gym to get healthier. And many of us sacrifice in order to make sure our kids are dressed well and have a chance for further education?
I’m not criticizing any of these choices. I have made them too, but why do we make these and other sacrifices? I believe it’s because these things are important to us. We sacrifice according to our priorities. Jesus is saying that if the Kingdom of God he proclaims and the kingdom life he exemplifies is our hope and desire and our priority, then it will be costly. The cross is a symbol of the price he was willing to pay for our sins, and it is his first priority. So if following him is our priority it will also cost us.
Jesus asks us to count the cost before signing up for discipleship. If we sign up to see that our child is a part of a traveling soccer team we count the cost. If we choose to move into a higher priced home, we count the cost. If we want a college education we count the cost. We are already making sacrifices, and Jesus is saying that Christian discipleship calls for the same.
And that sacrifice is marked by our confidence in God’s love of us and for all the world. That sacrifice is a commitment of love that comes from our relationship with Christ.
It is not a commitment that ensures our eternal destiny. God has already taken care of that. It is about the loving character of our Christian lives, and it is saying that if being a follower of Christ is worth doing it takes our time, energy, work and practice. In a word it takes our loving sacrifice.
- What is your cross?
- After counting the cost are you willing to pick it up and carry it?
- Are you bearing your cross in love or as a duty?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.