It was only after the resurrection that they began to understand. Following Jesus is a life-giving journey. Giving up your life that others may receive life.
For Jesus that meant literal, physical death and over the centuries since for many Christians it meant the same. However, for others it has meant the death of self and putting aside one’s own desires and plans. At times following Jesus brings a straining or end of family relationships, the loss of a career, an inheritance or freedom. They have understood, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously put it, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
For Christians in Australia the daily challenge of taking up our cross is becoming more and more costly. As our society continues to move away from its Judeo-Christian roots no longer espousing its values, our community is increasingly hostile towards those who hold on to them. Years of indifference to Christianity is being overtaken by contempt. Although there is a much talk about Australia being a tolerant nation, there is an increasing intolerance towards Christians and their way of life.
The recent kerfuffle in NSW where the Department of Education banned three Christian books from the Special Religion Education program because of their “unhealthy view of sexuality” illustrates the point. The ban was eventually overturned by the Minister for Education so it only lasted a couple of weeks. However, it demonstrates there are forces at work that are not only keen but increasingly bold and vigilant in their attempts to eradicate Christian values and Christian influence from Australian society.
It is in this context that Jesus calls us to daily take up our cross. As prejudice against Christians grows, and Christian values are increasingly lampooned, declaring yourself a Christian draws the perception you are naïve, intolerant, superstitious, backward and anti-Australian.
Standing up and standing out as a Christian in Australia today is increasingly costly and it may not be long before some are jailed for it.
Jesus calls you and me to take up our cross daily and follow him. What will it mean for you today and this week?
Stephen L Baxter