Jesus asks us to “take up our cross and follow him,” saying that “if you try to hold on to your life as it is, it will slip through your fingers. But if you let go of your own control over your life by releasing it to me and to the good news of this kingdom I am showing you, suddenly you will find your true life, your real self” (Mark 8:35).
Jesus invites us to follow him. How we follow him depends on where we start. Eric Law has a very helpful image that illustrates the gospel cycle of living.
For the powerful, for those of us who can make choices in our lives, or have some discretion or control over our circumstances, Jesus invitation is to follow him by picking up our cross, by seeking to serve, by entering the suffering of the world with compassion and a heart for justice. We can do this as simply as visiting a person in a nursing home, piercing their isolation with love, or by taking a casserole to a sick neighbor, sharing a laugh and a story together, or by protesting unjust systems that privilege certain groups at the expense of others, or by breaking a chain of toxic gossip in the workplace. Following Jesus means taking up a cross of suffering, knowing that the suffering can be redeemed by our merciful God.
For the powerless, for those whose lives feel perpetually out of control, for those who do not have the resources or the health to do what they desire, Jesus meets us in our powerlessness. Through his journey to the cross, he enters our pain and suffering and shame and says, “this is not where it ends. Follow me.” Through encouragement and hope and trust that God will never let us go, he leads us from the place of suffering to the empty tomb where we can experience resurrection, new life, and deep, profound joy.
This week I invite you to reflect on where you are in the gospel cycle? Do you need to take up your cross to follow Jesus? Or do you need the kind of hope and encouragement he brings to lift you into new life? Ask Jesus to show you where to start following him, and to give you the opportunity this week to take the first step. If you take a courageous step this week, I invite you to share your story in the comments below.