Vol.V No.V Pg.3
July 1968

Where Are Your Scars?

Robert F. Turner

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." (Matt. 16:24)

Becoming a Christian, and living the life of a Christian, are often summed up in such "package" statements; but this has long been a favorite of mine. Jesus made the statement after telling his disciples that He must die. Peter objected, saying, "Be it far from thee, lord;" but Jesus said such talk was Satanic — "for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."

"Then said Jesus — " leaving His own course, and yet predicating the hope of others upon his example — "If anyone wills to come after me —." The three essentials of this journey are: (1) farewell (to self); (2) carry our baggage (the cross); and (3) the continuous process of travel (follow me). (Godet) Each portion of the whole fills its own special purpose: complete denial of "self" so that we may live for Christ; and the "patient continuance in well doing," (Rom. 2:7) the "long haul" where so many are tempted to change the course rather than follow Christ faithfully. These things we understand, if only superficially, and accept as essentials in the Christian life. But what of our "cross"?

Despite the close association with Christ's literal death, such a cross is not enjoined upon us. Ours must be a "living sacrifice" (Rom.12:1). And yet it is "sacrifice" -- the willing acceptance of burden "for Christ's sake" that might be, and sometimes is, as big as life itself. Paul wrote, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: —" (Gal. 2:20).

Sickness, toothaches, and business reversals do not constitute the "cross." Christ bore His cross willingly, deliberately; not as one bearing pain with gritted teeth. We are sometimes near-sacrilegious in claiming as our "cross" something we bring upon ourselves by bombastic arrogance.

Christ bore His cross for the good of others, not to satisfy some martyr complex. The Middle-Age ascetics who lived in caves, starved themselves, or crawled on bleeding knees up some "holy" mountain "had their reward" — self-pity and praise of similarly deluded people. But our "cross" must be carried so that others may hear, obey, and live. How desperately we need the spirit of the small boy who carried a cripple on his back. "He ain't heavy, he's my brother!"

Christ died, and we must live for people who do not deserve it. This is a good thing to remember when our efforts are repulsed, scorned, rejected. Here is the "cross." Long hours of prayer and preparation are presented to shallow-minded ingrates. Earnest pleadings are cast aside as "fanatic" or "Anti-ravings." Those we love most deny us. Do we "revile again" or do we "bear our cross"? It may deepen your appreciation for the first cross if you will remember, the next time you are truly penitent and ask God to forgive your sinful ways, that Christ died for such worms as you and me.

Can I Truly Deny Self, Follow Ny Lord, Without A Cross Upon My Shoulder?