Sometimes people describe someone’s unfortunate circumstances as their “cross to bear.” The late New Testament scholar and Swedish Lutheran bishop Krister Stendahl suffered from extremely painful arthritis in his spine beginning when he was a teenager. The story is told that someone once referred to Stendahl’s condition as “your cross to bear.” Stendahl rejected that remark immediately, saying, “A cross is something you choose!”
I think Stendahl was right. The cross isn’t just something that happened to Jesus, something he was stuck with. Although he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that there might be another way, he willingly took up the cross for the sake of the world. Jesus’ call to his disciples is not a call to resign ourselves to things we’d rather not deal with; it is a call to join Jesus in the costly, dangerous work of reconciling a broken world.
This message is excerpted from the Bible study “We are called!” by Kathryn A. Kleinhans in the January/February 2020 Gather magazine. Today we commemorate Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, martyr, 156.
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