“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38 ESV)
These words were spoken to the disciples as Jesus sent them out to apply what they had been learning as they followed Jesus. While Jesus’ words are addressed to the disciples, His description of Himself is not specific to this conversation. His words are a continuation of what He says in the Sermon on the Mount. We have a choice. We can take up our cross and follow Him or not. Everyone has the choice, but Jesus is very clear that few will choose Him.
It is not new to observe that our understanding that we used to live in a Christian nation obscured the significance of this choice. There was a time in our country where to be an upstanding and respected member of the community meant participation in a local church. Where was the cross in this?
Our American culture is shifting. I would prefer that it shift in the direction of greater commitment to Jesus, but that is not the case. The choice for us is clearer now, as are the challenges. We must really think about what it means to follow Jesus. I enjoy the Sunday gathering experience, but that isn’t what Jesus was calling the disciples to. In this case He wasn’t calling them at all. They had already accepted the call, so He is sending them out. We are to gather to encourage one another, but more than anything we are to be a sent people. Our primary relationship is with Jesus and our mission is to proclaim good news so that others will choose Jesus as well.
For Bonhoeffer the choice was clear. Loving his neighbor meant working to protect the Jews whether they accepted Christ or not. In his case this resulted in imprisonment and death. For others who made the same choice the result was persecution and often a trip to a death camp. Our situation is not as severe, but it is important for us to think about what our cross looks like. One thing seems clear to me. As a follower of Jesus my life should be different enough that everyone I know is clear that I have made a choice.