“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This is how Jesus ends his discourse on family values, his monologue concerning the fourth commandment. If you don’t love Jesus more than your son or daughter, more than your mom or dad, that for the sake of the gospel you are willing give them up, you are not worthy of him. You are not worthy of Jesus Christ who for your sake endured his mother Mary questioning his sanity, and murderous plots on behalf of his own brothers. And he did this all, so that in the fullness of time he could die on your behalf, shed his blood for you and give you eternal life in the forgiveness of sins. So that losing your life for his sake, you would find it. That in him you would have life and live abundantly.
Losing your life, becoming dead to the world in which you were already dead in your trespasses. What do you lose that wasn’t lost already? No, losing your life for Christ’s sake, you find it. It was a life taken from us in baptism where we were buried into death, that just as he is risen from the dead to the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. But this means our life is his life, and his life is our life. It means dying to this world. It means picking up your cross and following him.
Sometimes I think this is a bit misunderstood. There is nothing Christian for instance about disowning your children or your parents because they refuse to be Christian or to believe in Christ. There is nothing Christian about disowning your children because they live in a manner you don’t approve of. This isn’t about forsaking family so that you can hold on to your pride and live in some manner that you consider to be more holy. Neither is there anything particularly Christian or holy about giving up all worldly possessions, and work, and relationships and living like a hermit, rather than enjoying those things God has entrusted to your care. But there is something Christian about being willing to see all these things taken from you rather than giving up faith in Christ.
This is often what people think is meant by picking up their cross and following Jesus. They interpret it as if it was some sort of command to live a strict life style like that of John the Baptist who came neither eating nor drinking anything. They completely ignore the fact that Christ came eating and drinking. Christ let his family abandon him, but never abandoned his family. Even as he will let you abandon him, but he himself will never abandon you. No, despite all his own family put him through, Jesus loved them, was patient with them, and cared for them so that finally they too came to believe and have faith and rejoice in the resurrection and walk in the newness of life.
No, self-imposed crosses are often a way to try to find your life, to save your life, to keep your pride, to stand on your own feet in the face of God. Abandoning friends and family because of how they live, or because they use language you don’t like. That sort of thing has more to do with practicing righteousness before men rather than carrying a cross.
No, the cross comes when perhaps your son disowns you because despite all your love for him, or perhaps because of it, you warn them of the dangers of their sin. When your parents disown you because you become a Christian. When your husband leaves you because you go to church on Sunday morning rather than sleeping in and watching football. When your boss passes over you for promotion because you insist on going to church on Sunday, or refuse to join their cult. The Christian doesn’t have to impose a cross upon himself because the world will give you plenty of crosses, when doing the right thing is harder and costs you more than doing that which the world would tell you is wise and smart.
But then you lose your life for Christ’s sake, because it belongs to him and has been buried in his death, where he took your life and gave you his. Then you lose your life, then you lose your pride, then you stop caring to stand on your own feet in the face of God. Then realizing your weakness as a sinner who has failed to live as the law commands, you turn to Christ and his forgiveness, who lost his life that you would live and live abundantly.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.