“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
What does it mean to take up one’s cross to you? In this context, it means to accept and bear the burden one has been called upon to bear. The verse indicates that an intrinsic part of taking up one’s cross is to deny oneself. That is, we must lose sight of ourselves and our own interests, so that we can focus on the burden we must carry. We must deny ourselves, or our own will, to take up our cross, which is God’s will for us as His disciples.
We have some common crosses, in that as followers of Christ, we have universal commandments spoken to us in the Bible that we must follow. Yet not all crosses are universal. God puts specific callings on different people, which come with different challenges. The Bible is full of examples of this. Some were called to be Nazarites, meaning they could not participate in some things that other Jews did in the Old Testament; some were called to start the church among the Jews, while others were led to start churches among the Gentiles; some were called to kingship, while others were called to poverty; some were called to long lives, others called to die, and others called home without seeing death. And as each followed the call placed on their lives, taking up their cross, they followed God.
I am a pastor at KCC. I have been called to be a pastor, and I follow that call. This comes with certain challenges and realities that I must face. They are part of my cross to bear. I do not expect you to bear them for me or with me; they are mine. And I am happy to take that up. But just because I have some things I must do or cannot do doesn’t mean God expects the same from you. Some pastors would suppose that everyone within the congregation must do as they do and live as they live and attempt to put that cross on their people. I don’t agree. If God puts it on my heart to do something, I do not think you necessarily need to do it. Just the same, some church people think pastors should do this or that, because it’s something they’re convicted about, and they attempt to put that cross on their pastors. I don’t agree with that, either. If the Bible says to do it or not to do it, I think we should all be bearing that, but let’s not assume everyone has the same calling as us and should be doing the same as us all of the time.
Don’t take up my cross and follow me. I will not take up your cross and follow you. Let us take up our assigned crosses and follow God.