Jesus said it: "Take up your cross and follow Me."
I take that as a golden invitation. Each of us is to take hold of the meaning of Jesus' cross and hold onto it. Here's why:
The basic disease of the human spirit is sin. A pastor received a phone call from a young woman: "You don't know who I am, but I just have to talk to somebody. About a year ago my husband had an affair with another woman overseas. I have forgiven him. But his memory of his sin has destroyed his love for me. Now because of his guilt, he wants a divorce."
Maybe he could not believe his wife could forgive him. But even her forgiveness would not help him deal with the blame he tried to get out of his mind. He imagined he could get rid of guilty feelings by getting away from his wife.
If there were no God, there would be no sin. It's against God you have sinned, not just your spouse, your friend, children, parents, neighbor, co-worker. It's wonderful to have forgiveness from them. But the feelings of guilt you carry around can only be dealt with by God. When God forgives, the guilt is gone.
A New York City priest told about two pickpockets in Manhattan who decided to reform. They went to "confession" at a church on West 31st Street. When the first thief came out of the confessional booth, he had a very puzzled look on his face.
Later, "Fast Fingered Freddy" seemed even more astonished when he came out of the church. He asked his partner, "What did he say to you?" "He told me to 'make the stations,'" replied his friend. "He told me the same thing," said Freddy. "What do you make of it?" "I don't know. It seems like a strange way to reform, but I'll tell you what -- you hit Penn Station and I'll work Grand Central." (The stations the priest directed them to are 14 plaques that depict various stages of Jesus' suffering and death.)
For these pickpockets and for you and me, God needs to deal with sin and guilt in such a way that we take up Jesus' cross and hold onto it for life. Grace and God's forgiveness are not cheap. Forgiveness is not a commodity like Cornflakes or a loaf of bread. The gift of God's forgiveness came at great price. Once that sinks in, our pickpockets could with profit meditate on Jesus' suffering and death and "make the stations."
How do we know God forgives? Jesus did not wait until we were ready and good. He died for us when we were ungodly.
"This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and gave His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins." Now that's God. He forgives for Jesus' sake.
A young man was proposing marriage to his heart's desire: "Sweetheart, I am not wealthy and I don't have a yacht and convertible like Jerome Green, but, my darling, I love you."
The girl thought for a few moments, then replied, "I love you, too, but tell me more about Jerome Green."
Jesus' proposal to you is this: "Take up the meaning of the cross and make it yours."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.