What does “carrying your cross” mean?
I have always thought Jesus’ command to “take up our cross” is about me. I have thought it is about me bearing my burdens, my sins, my difficulties. I’ve been more than willing to carry around the guilt and shame of all I have done in the past. But Jesus already bore those. I need not bear them any longer.
Some would say carrying my cross is a reference to dying to myself, and that is partially true.
Think about what it meant for Jesus to “carry the cross”. When that cross was laid upon His shoulders, all of my guilt and shame was laid upon Him. In that moment He took upon himself the sin and punishment of the whole world. He bore the cross so others wouldn’t have to. He carried His cross because we were unable to carry our own.
So perhaps carrying the cross is not really about me. Yes, it is about dying to self, but Jesus takes it one step further. It is about dying to myself so, like Jesus, I can bear the burdens of this around me. It is about dying to myself so I can bring redemption and reconciliation to those who are estranged from the Father. It is about giving my life to do for others what they cannot do for themselves.
As always, Jesus teaching doesn’t end with me, it always spills out into how I treat and serve others.
Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we have been saved by grace, and not by any work of our own. That grace is God’s free gift, purchased for me when Jesus bore His cross. But don’t forget verse 10. It takes that grace one step further,
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Jesus bore His cross for me because He had plans for me. In that moment when He died for me, I was then destined to die for others. It’s the way the gospel works. We cannot separate what Christ did for us from what He has now called us to do for others. A lifestyle of caring for the poor, standing up for the oppressed, and strengthening the weak are all part of my new destiny in Christ.
And Jesus made it very clear that this new way of living for others is not optional. He said if I don’t pick up the cross, I’m not worthy of Him. I cannot accept His grace without showing it to others.
It’s just the way it works.