Before close of business tonight, some of my Facebook will tell me and 600 of their closest on-line acquaintances that they’re not ashamed of Jesus–and that if I don’t repost their meme (am I using that correctly?) then it must mean that I’m ashamed of Him. “Bet most of you won’t have the courage to share this with 57 of your friends.”
But reposting a meme isn’t bravery. It’s something I can do safely in my pjs over coffee and for which there will be no–zero–repercussion. Not being ashamed of Jesus and His words ‘in this adulterous and sinful generation’ is more than choosing a bumper sticker or getting a cross tattoo. There’s nothing bad about bumper stickers, tattoos or memes, but they’re not bravery. They don’t qualify as taking up the cross. That, friends, comes at a significant and painful cost.
It means casting off the easy idolatries of our time, the ones which paint Jesus as something He’s not and then fawn over the imposter we’ve created in our own image. The Jesus who (and notice that I’m using lower-case pronouns here!) somehow stands up for the status quo and the haves instead of the real Jesus Who (upper-case!) hangs with sinners and prostitutes. The Jesus who is all about purity instead of the One Who is all about repentance. The Jesus who accepts lies and cruelty as long as they reinforce the brand, as opposed to the One Who said the truth will set us free, the Jesus Who tells us that living by the sword means dying by it as well.
Taking up the cross should hurt. If it doesn’t, then we’re worshiping a fake Jesus, one who comforts rather than challenges, who offers us our best life now rather than life everlasting on the other side of a cross and tomb–which may be metaphorical, but has to hurt lots to qualify even in so. At the very least, it should mean punching holes in some of my own dearly beloved self-deceptions and letting some of my self-satisfaction bleed out. Take up your cross, friends–and if it doesn’t smart, it’s not a cross. It’s just a fashion statement.