“When I took up the cross I recognized its meaning. The cross is something you bear, and ultimately, you die on.”
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)
Every life gets to
Make the same route,
Something common to all
Beyond any doubt.
The matter’s now at hand,
When we grapple with our dross,
Then we begin to understand
The meaning of the cross.
Like when an electric light is switched on; that is like the transaction that occurs when we suddenly both understand the gospel and allow its light to penetrate our lives. The transaction implicates transformation from within. Suddenly being truthful about hard things doesn’t seem that hard at all. We have borne our cross. Then – as traverse the path of initial awareness – we begin to marvel at how far we have strayed from God’s original design, by the overt and covert sin we have always engaged in. The more aghast we are, the more light we have allowed into our hearts. But another strange thing also occurs; God’s grace permeates so fully that we do not feel necessarily ashamed or guilty, but we are convicted to repent – to change the very themes of our lives.
There is a twofold scheme that Martin Luther King, Jr. Highlights for us and above.
1. The Bearing of Our Cross
This is surely first and foremost about responsibility. The right response we make to the truth as we perceive it is to take responsibility, and the bearing of our cross means we become diligent and prudent and more balanced in perspective. Truth reigns. We can bear harsh truths about ourselves and about life, and we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. Indeed, there is a feature of tolerance that has the mark of God’s grace over our dealing with others. We cannot help be forgiving. We assume responsibility enough for the things that go wrong in order that the purposes of reconciliation are bountiful in hope. We are willing to pay the price, to the glory of God, for the relational improvements that might be made within the realm of our influence.
We know we are living for Jesus when others come first.
2. The Cross We Die on
This is a difficult word for a 21st-century First World follower; for the many of us who have not known truly, a life of persecution. We know the true Jesus when we are prepared to lose our lives in order to save them – both in the literal sense and in the figurative sense.
If we are ever to be a martyr, we are to do it willingly, just as we are to become martyrs for many issues where we simply pour contempt on our pride, so God may be glorified in our beings.
We know we are living for Jesus when we are prepared to die for him; an idea the world cannot possibly understand, until it sees Jesus’ qualities in many a hero who has done the selfless thing we all admire.
The cross is a chalice; but, it’s a prize unlike any other award. To gain we must lose and by losing we gain. By giving to God, by bearing our crosses and dying on them, God gives us everything else of true importance. Such things are only understood through the fullest surrender.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.