Lent Reflection: The World or the Cross

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Mark 8:34-36

Jesus just finished rebuking Peter. The words still hang in the air, “Get behind me, Satan!” I’m sure Peter, along with the rest of the disciples, were ashamedly confused. What was it that Peter had done to receive such a harsh rebuke? It’s all so easy to do. Peter prioritized the things of man over the things of God. Namely, comfort. That is, Peter, the “rock” of the church, took offense at the teaching “that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected…and that he must be killed.” Resultantly, the Church has taken offense at a suffering Savior ever since.

I spoke to a man the other day who confessed for the first time he had had a tangible experience of God’s peace in his life. This was revolutionary given his proclivity to intellectualize his faith. But it came at a moment of great pressure and personal suffering. There are many Christians, who like Peter, would reject the struggle and rewrite the script to escape the cross Christ brings to us each day. We say we love the cross of Christ, but that’s not always the case. If you simply write off hardships and sufferings in your life as evil and therefore to be avoided at all costs, you have basically “pulled a Peter” and sought peace with the world. But those who love the cross of Christ and experienced the peace of God will even begin to boast in their sufferings.

I leave you today with one of George Herbert’s best-known poems and by far my favorite: Love.

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
“If I lack’d anything.”

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here.”
Love said, “you shall be he.”
“I, the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” sayes Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My deare, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” sayes Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
George Herbert

– Pastor Hartman

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