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Living cross-shaped lives

The problem for many of us in the UK is that all too often we do not choose the cross; we choose what everyone else chooses. But what if we really followed the example of Jesus? By Michael Shaw

 
In his book The Politics of Jesus John Howard Yoder argues there is only one area that the New Testament says directly where we should have Jesus as our example. It is not in his barefoot itinerancy, or his self-support, or in his celibacy, or his trade as a carpenter: “only at one point, only on one subject – but then consistently, universally – is Jesus our example: in his cross”.
 
CrossHaving the cross as our example to follow should radically alter the way we live our lives. But sadly for the modern western Christian, we like to follow Jesus in every respect, but the cross.
 
You see, the cross is more than just a moment of sacrifice; it marks the culmination of a life of sacrifice. I wonder how much Jesus may have had to sacrifice in order to ensure that the cross remained the culmination of his mission. It is interesting looking at the temptations in the desert during Jesus’ 40 days of fasting to see what were put upon him; the temptation to feed his physical desires, the temptation to put his calling to the test, the temptation to grasp for power. But what other areas would Jesus have had to resist the normal patterns of life?
 
When I occasionally watch the X-factor (or shows of that type) what always strikes me is the use of the D word – Dream – this is my dream to sing in front of thousands of people etc. I wonder what Jesus’ dreams were? I wonder what he hoped for, wished for, longer for? Instead, as the song writer says, he “chose the cross”.
 
The problem for many of us in the UK is that all too often we do not choose the cross, we choose what everyone else chooses. Our lives are no different from everyone else. We want the best school for our child, so we live where the good schools are, we want the dream “location, location, location” house, so we buy accordingly; we want that dream job, the dream car, we want it all, and in doing so we become indistinct from those around us. No wonder nobody asks us to “give a reason for the hope that we have” because our hopes are the same as everyone else!
 
So how can we live cross shaped lives? We have to live truly sacrificially, and this is more than just digging deeper into our pockets during the offering, it is about sacrificing our dreams of where we live and work, allowing God to shape them. This may mean living is areas of the country that may make us feel uncomfortable; it may mean working in jobs that challenge; it may be sending your kids to schools that they will struggle in. But that is a cross-shaped life.
 
In Psalm 34:7 the Psalmist says – take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (my paraphrase). In taking “delight” we are giving up our hopes and dreams and sacrificing them, and in doing so, we learn to take on his hopes and dreams for us, and these become the “desires of our heart”.

So why not take up the challenge today, why not really allow God to dictate our lives, rather than just singing about it?
 

The Revd Michael Shaw is minister of Devonport Community Baptist Church, Plymouth

Picture: RGB Stock

Michael Shaw, 11/06/2014


 
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