Last year I gave up religion for Lent. Yes you read that right. You can read more about it here. This year you might think I’ve given up writing! I haven’t, I promise. I’ve simply been spending time reflecting and savoring this Lenten season. Which is why this year I didn’t give up anything for Lent, but instead, I was inspired to two friends to give away an item a day. That’s 40 items in 40 days. And with Palm Sunday and Holy Week around the corner, it’s about time to share what I’ve learned from the experience.
Easter is not just a reminder of the incomprehensible sacrifice Jesus made in order to bring us back into relationship with God, but it is also an invitation to enter into the same kind of sacrifice. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” What does it mean for us to “take up your cross”? The cross is a symbol of death, a means of execution. So would a modern day reading sound something like this: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, strap yourself to the electric chair, and follow me.”? Or, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, tie a noose around your neck, and follow me.”?
When you stop to think about it, what a strange thing for Jesus to require in order to be his disciple! But relationship with God has always required death. Initially it required to blood of an sacrificial animal. Jesus’ served as the perfect sacrifice fulfilling the law completely and tearing the curtain that separated us from God for once and for all. But death is still required. The death of our selfish ways, worldly desires, and sinful self. Romans 6:6-7 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with [Christ] so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
So what does it mean to “take up your cross” and be “crucified with Christ”? For me it means focusing more on others and less on myself. For me it means blessing people who maybe don’t “deserve” it but are still God’s children. It means not only giving when I have extra, but even when I don’t have enough. It means showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
And it means that just like my old sinful self must take up it’s cross and be crucified with Christ, my new saved self must stay connected with the risen Christ. Because I cannot do anything that looks even remotely Christ-like in my own power! As we approach the final week of Lent and draw closer to Calvary, may we also take up our cross, crucify our old self, grow closer to Christ, and remain connected to him so that our lives ultimately are a reflection of his loving sacrifice, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Following Christ means serving, suffering, and ultimate sacrifice. Christ gave his life for me and that inspires a response of my life for him. And isn’t that the essence of Easter!?
Happy Holy Week!
The stack so far (minus 6 items already in new homes). Anyone need a different wardrobe? A purse? A rice cooker? Pampered chef cookware? Shoes? (I have a lot of shoes.)