The cross is a mega-compressed symbol of all that it means to follow Jesus, and all that it means that Jesus is Christ for us. There is nothing like the cross in the whole world. The two lines… + … express more than can ever be spoken, and yet they speak and speak and speak. What the cross conveys about the best and the worst of humanity is the substance of all that we are constantly wrestling through as followers of Jesus. But taking up the cross is not easy.
Jesus used the image of taking up the cross and following after him to convey the radical nature of discipleship (Mat. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).
For the apostles, leading others to embrace the cruciform life — the Jesus-like life — was the whole aim of their work among believers.
my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! – Gal. 4:19
And what is it about Jesus that speaks to what it means for him to be formed in us? I think it is the cruciform image. The cruciform image involves a resolute steadfastness and commitment to loving God with the whole of our being. It means never breaking faith with God for the sake of self-preservation, and never hating my enemies, but rather loving them instead — even in the face of death (cf. Lk. 22:42; 23:34).
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Phil. 2:5-8
To embrace a cruciform life is to wholly recapitulate the image of humanity from a rebellious and autonomous child who loves himself more than God (Adam) to a pleasing and obedient child who loves God and God’s will more than he loves himself (Jesus).
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. – 1 Cor. 15:21-22
Today I have been thinking a lot about the cross. That is partly because the Holy Spirit continues to call me to the cruciform life, and it is so difficult. It is so unlike Adam (and we are so much like Adam). But Jesus is working in us to “un-Adam” us. He himself is the un-Adaming of Adam (to borrow some terminology from Malcolm Smith who may have borrowed it from someone else). And in order to un-Adam Adam, we will need a cross.
I became convinced several years ago that if the cross was not central to any and every issue I am dealing with as a follower of Jesus, then I have not thought about it carefully enough. If I only need the cross to be forgiven, but I need something else to work on my other “issues” — then I’m not actually thinking about discipleship as Jesus expressed it and modeled it. There must be a cross for everything in my life until I am living a cruciform life. Until I can find a cross for everything in my life, I need to keep thinking about the cross.
- A cross for my guilt and sin
- A cross for my pride
- A cross for my shame
- A cross for my fear
- A cross for my materialism
- A cross for my lust
- A cross for my marriage
- A cross for my money
- A cross for my work
- A cross for my friendships
- A cross for my health and habits
- A cross for my politics
- A cross for my “enemies list”
- A cross for my broken personality
- A cross for my grudges and my desire to take revenge
- A cross for my disappointments and my disillusionment
- A cross for my _______________________
I need the cross every day until I am living a cruciform life, and can say…
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Gal. 2:20
I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. – Gal. 6:17b
Today I know I am still too much like Adam, and not much like Jesus. But there is a cross for that.
More Jesus — More Cross