My mentor posed this question to me. He said this would be the question we revising a few times through this year to see how my answer changes. My initial response was a bit choppy. I’ve had some time to think about it and this is my current position.
I always start by analyzing the imagery. Now, I know my apologist friends are cringing because I’m not starting with context. The reason I’m not starting there is because it is assumed. My mentor read the full passage before asking the question. This is the very narrow and personal question of, what does this mean to you? I am a creative person. I think in pictures, so the first place I go is the image. This is a very strong image, the carrying of the cross.
One quick consideration (which is contextual) is when Jesus says this. It is not after his crucifixion, but before it. Why would he use that imagery without some foreknowledge? Yes, I know crucifixion was a common Roman execution, but it was not the only one. There was specific meaning there that Christ laid on his disciples (specifically upside Peter’s head).
The meat of the question is why did Christ carry the cross? He carried it for us (Romans 5:8). He came with a specific purpose, to reconcile humans with God the Father. He was the sacrificial lamb. This was his purpose from day one and he never deviated from it.
This is why the cross is seen as the ultimate act of selflessness. Christ was innocent and he came to reconcile humanity for the pleasure of His Father. Christ did not gather a following so he could be seen as special. He did not seek to be a public figure. He only wanted to please the father and was willing to go as far as to die on the cross.
So, when I am asked, “what does it mean to carry your cross?” My response is to live for the please of the Father even unto crucifixion. No more selfishness. No more pride. No more ego. It is not the dissolution of the self, but a death of our old self centered (idolatry of self) and a life ordered towards God.
This is a big ask. Are you willing to die to please God?
I think Christ new the impact of his words. As he said, the world hated him and so they would hate us. They killed him, so they will also kill us. He made them ask, consider, “are you all in? Because this life will take everything you have and more.” The answer was no, they were not all in. John fled naked. Peter tried to fight because he knew what God’s plan REALLY was.
That is what it means when I hear that question: are you all in?
Working for my life’s vision of writing stories in a beverage shop that I own.