The Cruciform life
It’s a sad reality that most of us will probably read that and ask “what does that mean?”
A guy named Paul who lived a long time ago and eventually was murdered because he followed Jesus wrote something pretty interesting. He said, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
You realize that a grant is a gift right? College students and scientists translate grant to “free money.”
A grant is a gift. We have the gift of not merely believing in Christ but also suffering on his behalf.
This is how many Americans have come to understand this: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan that is founded on your happiness.” (this is NOT a verse in the Bible, it a paraphrase of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Which is taken from a common evangelical tool of the 20th century) But it is an interpretation of a Bible verse where Jesus says “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.”
(Funny how we tend to interpret the Bible based on our preconceived ideas. Don’t worry, I know I do it too, so let me know when you see it)
Now there are a handful of genuinely bad people who manipulate this passage to make people WANT to follow them. And then I think there are a whole lot more who honestly believe that God’s highest priority is their wealth, success, freedom, and pleasure.
Actually I think a good portion of the American church has come to buy into this on some level. I think we have somehow come to expect that we will be able to have our way. I think we expect to have it all. I think we expect to have freedom, privilege, and ease.
But what if God’s “wonderful plan” involves the gift of suffering for Christ? What if the abundant life Jesus came to give us involves deep and almost unbearable agony, pain and trial? How many of us would say “hey that’s not what I signed up for!”
But there is another concept in Christianity. Where instead of focusing on ourselves – what we get or the suffering that we “have” (or is it “get?”) to endure, we actually focus on the cross. There’s a new idea. Focus on the cross instead of on ourselves. (novel I know.)
It’s called the cruciform life.
Cruciform means to be shaped like the cross. And what is the Cross of Christ shaped like? Humility, suffering, (acceptance of that suffering), mocking, misunderstanding, sorrow, grief, and loss. At the other end of the cross is resurrection, restoration, triumph and joy. Of course those nice things come AFTER the bad stuff.
I think most of us spend our lives avoiding the cross that Jesus is calling us to. Enter in instead. Learn the way of the cruciform life. It is only in being shaped like the cross that the Christian’s life can actually be called a “Christian” life.
One final thought
Don’t just read this and say “right on brother!” and then go back to your comfortable western life. Read it and enter into sorrow. Maybe start by giving away a hundred dollars to someone in need. Maybe choose to fast instead of eat, maybe sit with someone dying. Maybe stop worrying about who will win the election and whether your life will be better or worse with a Trump or a Bernie. Welcome and embrace suffering as gifts that we get to participate in the suffering of Jesus knowing that this is the path to life.