“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”
Being a follower of Jesus in the first century often meant enormous sacrifice and risk. Believers were quite literally putting their lives on the line…at the very least their commitment would mean estrangement from family and community. We live in a country where following Jesus is socially acceptable…there are churches on every corner and we are encouraged to belong to them…our offerings are even tax deductible! It’s interesting then, since it’s so easy to be a follower of Jesus, that so many are reluctant to dedicate themselves to regular worship or service. Most folks who were baptized into Christ are unwilling to do anything that might distinguish them from unbelievers. Or maybe it really is harder than it appears to be a follower of Jesus in an age of tolerance and plenty. After all, what’s the point of self-denial when Christianity doesn’t require sacrifice? In Europe during medieval times people resorted to self-flagellation and weekly fasting to show their devotion to Jesus, but such contrived acts of piety rightly hold little interest to us. Our times are different. A better strategy might simply be to look to the needs of others before taking care of ourselves. We might even discover that self-denial is a better way to live than self-indulgence!
Thought for the Day: How can I make self-denial a part of my daily life?