cross

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.

I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”

I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?” I was not involved with any of your baptisms—except for Crispus and Gaius—and on getting this report, I’m sure glad I wasn’t. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas’s family, but as far as I can recall, that’s it.)

God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.

The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. [1 Corinthians 1:10-18 MSG]

I’m curious how many times the cross has drawn people to judge me. Maybe someone thought me a hypocrite. Maybe someone thought I was not living my life in a way that honors Jesus. Maybe someone caught me at my worst.

I’m also curious how many times the cross has drawn people to me in a positive way. I delight in laughter. I try to get along with everyone. I try to make Jesus as real and genuine as possible. I champion the oppressed. I am not colorblind and see all the beauty in differences throughout this world.

Yet I am still a dumb human and do and say things that do not reflect the Lord I serve.

I don’t think the cross has made anyone hate me. But who knows, for a long time I had a super spicy temper and was a very good manipulator in my before Jesus years. I have not suffered for the cross as many have around the world.

The cross is meant to be a unifier. A symbol of the grace of Jesus, the sacrifice made for us and our sin.

The cross is not sheer silliness to me. It is life. It is resurrection. It is restoration.

The cross I wear is Russian Orthodox. I bought it back in 2009 when we started visiting our friends in Kirov region. It is blessed by an Orthodox priest and the woman that sold it to me told me I needed to burn the tag, as it should not be tossed in the trash since it was blessed. On the back of the cross it says, “God save and protect me.” I have a ring that says the same and I twirl it on my finger when I am praying. The more twirling there is, the more serious the prayers. The slower the twirling, then it is more thoughtful and discerning prayer. That ring and I have prayed some pretty serious prayers over the years.

When I wear the cross, my young friends will tuck it back into my shirt if it flies free. “Don’t show that unless you are baptized,” they tell me. When I tell them I am baptized, then it turns to, “Well it is private. Very personal.”

If that doesn’t describe Russian Orthodox in a sentence, I’m not sure what does. But this generations passed on feeling that the cross is too personal to show mesmerizes me. I’m not sure how far back it goes in their culture, but it is a deeply embedded belief.

If I follow Jesus with intent to hide who I am, hide what I believe…what good am I to the cross? But there is more than just living to show a symbol. We must live to reflect Jesus. So maybe Russian culture does get it right.

We are invited into a relationship with God, but we are also invited into relationships with others. Within those relationships should be a life lived that mimics and reflects the life of Jesus. How Jesus treated others, loved everyone, healed rebelliously, and accepted all should be what I model in my own life.

Reflecting Jesus also means we are unified with all believers.

A few days ago as I was ending a blog post, an All Sons and Daughters song popped into my head. It was ‘Wake Up,’ and the lyrics just started scrolling. I don’t even think how I added it in that post made complete sense…but in the moment, I couldn’t help by add it because God had it playing so loud in my head. Sometimes God can be an annoying roommate that won’t turn the volume down. But to be fair, he knows it can take months on end for me to really listen to a major point he is trying to get me to pay attention to. Here are the lyrics:

We have seen the pain
That shaped our hearts
And in our shame
We’re still breathing, ’cause

We have seen the hope
Of Your healing
Rising from our souls
Is the feeling
We are drawing close
Your light is shining through

So wake up, wake up
Wake up all you sleepers
Stand up, stand up
Stand up all you dreamers

Hands up, hands up
Hands up all believers
Take up your cross, carry it on

The cross can be a symbol that is just a symbol, or it can be something that is so deeply embedded in us that our actions and words are constantly reflecting the one who died on it.

You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.[1 Corinthians 1:10]

Wake up, friends. It is time to choose to be a real disciple, not just one who fakes it until they make it on Sunday mornings by going to church AND (shocked face) Sunday school. The kind that believes in the words of Jesus and lives them out in your every day, walking around life. The kind that does not leave division in your wake based on denomination, politics, and race. The world needs you. Your neighborhood needs you. Jesus needs you. You are called. Let’s grab that cross and go.

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