Taking Up the Cross

This past Sunday the lectionary reading from the gospels moved things on from Simon Peter's confession of Jesus as Christ (Matthew 16: 13-20) to the confrontation between Jesus and Simon over the direction Jesus was headed (Matthew 16: 21-28) and Jesus' challenging words:

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Matthew 16:24 (ANIV)

I've just recently completed Robyn Young's "Templar Trilogy" dealing with the latter years of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the downfall of the Templar Order. If you want to read my full review of the final episode "Requiem" you can find it here, but basically all three were a bit of a slog, with the author trying to cover too much in any one book. She does manage to avoid a lot of the conspiracy-theory nonsense that many other "Templar" books are founded on, but she does seem to import a 21st century multi-faith/secularist mindset into the book... obfuscating, for me, one of the most interesting questions of the whole crusading/Christendom projects: that being, how did Jesus' instruction to take up the cross, get corrupted into the blasphemy that was the crusades, which in turn has blighted relationships between Muslim, Christian and Jew for nearly 1000 years (although it should also be remembered that "crusades" were also declared against schismatic/heretic Christian sects such as the Aligenses, and Eastern Orthodox)?
In many ways the "crusading" phenomenon was an example of what would have been the ultimate result of Simon Peter persuading Jesus to abandon his talk about suffering and death and following the expected Messianic path to conquest and power. But Jesus was definite in saying that was the way of the world rather than the way of God...
Yet today we still prefer the way of the world than the way of God... we are more comfortable with the stirring language of crusade than with really embracing the way of the cross… Conquest rather than sacrifice… Seeking power and influence rather than seeking to serve…
We still like the idea of wearing the cross... not necessarily a bright one emblazoned across our chests, but on our lapels and on chains around our necks... all the better if it brings us into conflict with worldly authorities, prompting (spurious) cries of "PERSECUTION!!!!!" and a crusading media campaign by the Christian Legal Centre or others.
Jesus didn't say to his disciples “By the crosses round your neck or on your lapel they shall know you.” He said:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

John 13:34-35 (ANIV)

Love should be our badge, our symbol… Not wishy, washy hearts and flowers love, but the sort of love that took Jesus to the cross: messy, painful sacrificial love and service.
Its not romantic, or sexy, and it probably won't result in many exciting novels or banner headlines, but such is the real way of the cross.

(An adaptation of part of my sermon last Sunday at Dundonald Methodist)


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