A Different Perspective

It all comes down to love.

©BartekAmbrozik

©BartekAmbrozik

When I read, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23),” I hear something quite different than most folks. (Are you surprised? I do walk to the beat of a different drummer.)

Most folks hear Jesus saying, “Yes, following me will be a huge burden; it will involve suffering. It will involve giving up many things. It may involve walking away from friends and family. It definitely includes telling people about me. Only the fittest will survive this journey. So pick up that cross and follow me!”

I am certain from this point of view comes the fear of displeasing God, of losing his love, of losing salvation. From this point of view comes the fear of not being fit, not fitting in, not performing up to snuff, not gaining entrance to heaven. But we were not meant to fear; we were meant to abide in God’s love so we do not fear. The apostle John writes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Why else would Jesus say, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)

©The Passion of the Christ

©The Passion of the Christ

The cross was a horrific image to first century listeners. Today, it would be analogous to an electric chair or a hanging noose. If we are to follow the words and actions of Jesus, we must remember he did not carry his cross alone. Simon of Cyrene helped him on that long walk to Golgotha. (Matthew 27:32) And just as Jesus cast his burden onto Simon and permitted him to assist, Jesus tells us to cast our burdens onto him, and exchange them for his singular burden.

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 emphasis mine)

Based on his words and actions, when I read those words, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me,” I hear Jesus saying, “Look, it doesn’t matter what your personal prejudices or agendas are; that’s your cross to bear. My commands (the ones I gave to all people in all places for all times) are paramount; they are fundamental, and central to my Gospel. If you want that cross to keep weighing you down, fine. But if you want to follow me, I tell you here and now, my burden is far lighter. My burden is love. Love God and your neighbors. Love each other as I have loved you.

Yes, make disciples; that is, make people feel safe and loved. Tell people the truth of the Good News, that they are invited into the family of God right now, just as they are. Then help them in their journey to accept the Father’s unconditional love and grace. Are you courageous enough to do this, to take up my burden and walk with me?”

When Jesus said, “Follow me,” he expected us to follow his commands. But which commands? Some of his commands were for a specific time and place (like telling the rich young ruler to give up his possessions), but others, based on Hebrew grammar, were universal:

Jesus answered him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

“I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. (John 13:34)

“Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

“Teach these new disciples to obey all these commands (Yep, these four – five including this one!) I have given you.” (Matthew 29:20)

So, based on these commands, are you ready to follow him?

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children when we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And the victory that has overcome the world is our faith. (1 John 5:1-4 emphasis mine)

(Thank you to Don Merritt and Little Monk for the clarity of instruction on the grammar of the commandments of Jesus.)

19 comments

  1. Amen. May God bless your heart… thank you for your ministry here… I love reading about Christianity, faith, hope, and the love of God. Following Jesus is not easy, having a Christ like attitude can be challenging, obeying His commandments may be difficult but if there is Love in your heart God will lead you in that journey. You believed that He loves you is the reason you still want to live by His examples ❤ amen Miss Susan… love this ❤

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    1. Thank you so much. The Holy Spirit provides me with the wisdom and power to make the road easy, as long as I allow Him to take me over.

      I’m so glad you came over to read and add your perspective to the mix!

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  2. You’re so right! God doesn’t lay on us an impossible load–though it may seem at first to be impossible. One baby step at a time. No matter how old we are or how far we’ve come or not come. Even Jesus pursued his mission one day at a time, one village at a time….always needing and welcoming others to join him.
    Elouise

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    1. Yes, that’s right, Elouise. He gives us power and strength because he’s right there beside us, helping us carry the load. And when we can’t, he carries it for us.

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  3. Indeed Susan. I suspect it has been the fire and brimstone crowd who have set the tone for reading the bible – we tend to see the hardest and darkest interpretation of every biblical statement. As you so eloquently pointed out Susan, we will be asked to carry our cross, no one else’s (unless we choose). I have a neat story about this. I have a female friend – Penny – who is an elementary school teacher. Here in Ottawa there are two major parallel systems – public and Catholic (there are many French in our area). There are also private schools and they can be of any or no denomination. Penny is Catholic and has the training to teach in both the Catholic and public systems. She is a mother and when her last child (of 6) was new born, she took part time teaching jobs.

    One day she was assigned a grade 4 Catholic class and they were scheduled for a field trip to the local Cathedral. There was a young priest who met them and he had obviously been chosen for this duty because of his ability to bond with the kids and teach. When the topic came up of each “bearing their cross” he told the class a parable. He told of a young woman who wanted to join the church but was concerned about bearing the cross. During the time she was wrestling with this, she had a dream one night and in it she was met by Jesus in a Cathedral much like the one they were standing in. Jesus asked why she was hesitating in following Him and she explained her issue. Jesus said to her: “Go through that door you see in front of you and there you will find all the different crosses that are born by all humans. I say unto you that you can pick any cross you wish and that will be the cross that you will hence forth bear should you chose to follow me.” So, in her dream, the young woman entered the room and she saw before her an infinite number of crosses of all sizes and designs and decoration. The young woman was still hesitant as she perused the crosses looking for one that she felt comfortable with. After a while, she realized there were too many to look at all of them and so she figured she would choose the smallest cross. It sat on a shelf at eye level and it was of beautiful design, decorated elegantly by some long forgotten craftsman. She picked it up and it was lighter than it looked and could be held in one hand. Satisfied with her choice she found her way between all the crosses, some standing taller than her, back to the exit door. She walked out and found Jesus waiting for her. She showed Him the cross she had chosen and told Him that she was comfortable bearing that cross. Jesus smiled as he examined the cross and said: “Yes, I see you have found the cross that is yours.” He turned the cross over in His hand and there in beautiful calligraphy written by the craftsman when the cross was created, was written the woman’s name.

    At this point the priest ended the parable and he asked Penny’s grade four students what the story meant to them. One young girl shot her hand up and the priest chose her. She said that to her the story meant that every person received the smallest cross for them and the cross that was designed by God to fit their strengths. And, she added, each person who entered the room saw the crosses as different sizes, so that what the woman saw as a huge cross for her would be seen as the smallest cross for someone else. The priest was amazed, as was Penny, and he praised her understanding as they returned to their tour.

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    1. PLEASE READ THE COMMENT ABOVE!

      Wow, Paul, I got chills and tears as I read the ending to this story. What a wonderful parable this is, and I couldn’t have chosen a better ending to my own post.

      Thank you, sweet brother. ❤

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      1. I’ll pass your thanks along to Penny. Thank you for the opportunity to relate the story – it happened some years ago and I have never had the opportunity to relate it until your post today – which it seemed almost designed to fit, like the piece of a puzzle. May the Lord be with you Susan.

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      2. And with you, Paul.

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    2. Paul, thank you for this powerful story and for sharing it here with Susan’s equally powerful post.
      Elouise

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      1. My pleasure Elouise – I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. What encouraging words and hope we all have in theses verses. I would like to add my thinking to this wonderful story of hope, Susan for the readers that might read this story and believe all will be well and all my troubles will fade away when I say I believe in Jesus. I know what I am about to say might seem negative but in reality it isn’t. The words take up your cross or burdens, struggles, heartache, disappointment and all the other troubles and woes of the world. All will remain and still come at every christian until Christ returns for His bride .Those that have said yes Lord, I believe in you that will not take away our pain and suffering that we most definitely will face in this world.

    Often today Christians paint a picture of all is well if you will just follow Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth for followers of Christ. The struggles and heartache we will face daily will build character and Christlikeness in us for tomorrow so we will be abel to stand when the storms of life come. It is not my intent to deny or rebuke what you have written, because in fact it is truth. Only when new christians or immature christians have grown to a place in their walk with Jesus, to where they can understand the truths the bible gives will they have true lasting peace and joy on this earth today. Yes many folks come to Christ thinking all my problems will go away. I would think we would tell them the truth,that problems and struggle is a real part of the world we live in and it is not going away. However if we will truly give our life to Christ and as we grow in Christ then we will began to realize that taking up our cross daily and taking Christ’s yoke is a joy and we will find everlasting peace and joy on this earth daily and heaven for eternity with Jesus. No amount of coffee bars and making christians comfortable will build a lasting faith and love for others in Christ. It might draw curious and Sunday christians to Christ but it want build the same love Jesus has for us in them. Only knowing Jesus will do this.

    Yes come as you are,broken and bruised, dirty with sin and ashamed. Jesus and true Christians will accept you and really love you.As you learn of Jesus He will show you His love and create in you a heart that can withstand the storms of life. Jesus will see you through all your heartache,struggles and pain, that you will experience in your life. Know this. Jesus loves the saint and sinner alike. True christians will love one another and the lost as they are as Susan said. Living for Christ is difficult and hard, there are many things to keep you off track. However if you will call on the name of the Lord he will see you through if you (trust Him to).

    This is my take on following and finding Jesus. Once again dear Susan thanking you letting me share my thoughts.

    Much Love Tom

    PS Mercy always triumphs over judgment

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    1. You are so right, Tom. As I said as a reply to one of the comments below, Jesus told us we would have trouble; that is the absolute truth. But it’s when we focus on the trouble instead of The Teacher we veer off course. And it takes time and discipling to experience and understand this truth. But as you said, “taking up our cross daily and taking Christ’s yoke is a joy” when we discover the height and width and depth of our Father’s love. And that’s when we genuinely want to share it. And of course, as you also said, “Mercy always triumphs over judgment.”

      Your thoughts always enrich us, Tom. Bless you.

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  5. ” Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

    For 58.5 years, I worked for my own agenda…I believed that if I used my God-given talents then I should be able to support myself (partially, anyway) using those talents: painting, graphic design, photography, etc. It never happened.

    At 58.6, I gave up all that; I gave away 85 or more paintings and threw a lot of stuff away. (I gave to the Salvation Army thousands of dollars worth of art supplies, darkroom equipment, frames and framing equipment, etc.)

    At 59.5, I went through some seriously suicidal depression. I had been purging possessions: memorabilia from my 22 years of programming and climate science with the government; attempts to have my writings published or to sell my photography; stuff from my failed marriage; items from when my children were small and I was severely bipolar; etc.

    I was spent, done, depleted.

    At rock bottom, I was fired…wrongfully and in a cruel way.

    From that vantage point, there was nowhere to look but up.

    My brother, my rock on earth, offered me the use of this 60-year-old house trailer on a lake in upstate South Carolina; it had been empty (except for a 6-foot black snake) for 4 years. My children were wanting to launch. It was hard. The move broke me physically but that, too, has been providential because I have been forced to slow down.

    I have taken off the yoke of my agenda and Jesus has placed His yoke upon me. It is not only light, It Is Joy.

    Joy.

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    1. Oh, Kitsy, your journey looks much like my own, though I have no children of my own. But the broken downness – that I know, and I was in my mid-50s. Looking back on where I might have gone…well, the path I was on would have led me to certain death at my own hand.

      I, too, took off my own desires and agenda like an old, tattered coat; He bathed me clean and put new clothes on me. And for me, they are light, joy and most of all, a peace I could never find anywhere else.

      Thank you so very much for sharing your story so exquisitely.

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  6. Great post! “My burden is love.” So true. I think that – however we initially interpret the teachings and stories of Christ – we always have to step back and remember that the very foundation of His ministry was love and the almighty life changing power that comes with it. Somewhere in every teaching there is a seed of that love and we have to commit to always finding it. Our faith and our day to day relationship with God waters it and it reaches out to change the world – our world and other peoples as it grows.

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    1. Yes! And even though Christ meant this burden to be easy, some make it so difficult to love.

      In a prelude to 1 John 5:1-5, the Voice says, “It’s easy to say ‘I love God,’ but genuine love reflects God’s love. If we belong to God, then we will love each other regardless of how hard love is.”

      As you said, “the very foundation of His ministry was love” and it still is.

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  7. You teach with authority! ((hugs))

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    1. Wow! Thank you. (I think I am blushing.)

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