Is Christian politics just about authority and power but not sacrifice and suffering? Is so-called Christian politics really about selfishness? Do Christian politicians promise salvation without sacrifice? Whether it is abortion, welfare, healthcare, or immigration the bottom line for a Christian is asking which is the love-thy-neighbor alternative? Why do so-called Christian politicians say it’s a woman’s right to choose selfishness or a billionaire’s right to be greedy? Why is it that so many Christians claim to want a Christian nation, but in truth want a more selfish nation? Jesus had two messages: that he was the Messiah and that the Messiah must suffer. The Messiah is the Savior. He demonstrated his power to save by healing people. But, when he began to teach his disciples about suffering, they objected. Do we also object to the true core of Christianity?
Do we reject Jesus too or do we truly follow him? He gives two simple steps to following him: turn from selfishness and take up our cross (vs. 34). Follow him! But, follow him where? He took up his cross and went to Calvary. Must we also go to our own personal Calvary? Our society tends to focus on self, either self-esteem or self-abasement. We are so selfish that even when we give we do it for selfish reasons. The cross teaches us that real life is not about ourselves at all, but about dying to selfishness in all its forms. Just as Israel’s leaders described Jesus as blasphemous and evil, so too do our national leaders call real Christianity a desecration of the nation’s ideals and wicked. Nationally, we are not willing to take up the cross of self-sacrifice.
Notice that Jesus addressed not just his disciples, but the crowd in calling for a turn from our selfish ways. Though politics, Hollywood, business and advertising may all say with one voice that we deserve to be selfish, the true Good News to any nation is to turn from our selfish ways. Politics says let’s be selfish, kill our unborn children and let the sick die without healthcare. Hollywood says let’s idolize fiction not love neighbor. Business says let’s idolize greed and not love neighbor. Much advertising says let’s idolize ourselves not love neighbor. Even many Christians are fooled by these deceptive messages. Jesus says let’s be unselfish (vs. 34-35). Trying to hang on to our souls is an expression presuming the life lived on earth. You will lose it is from an ancient expression meaning to trifle away our lives.
Words like profit, gain, loss and exchange (vs. 36-38) are business words that we still use today. They refer to Psalm 49 where those who trust in their riches cannot pay God enough to escape the grave. It is like trusting in the sand to save us from the flood when the only salvation is on the rock. The approval of the whole world cannot make up for the denial of Jesus and the Gospel. The approval of Christ is what we need for eternity. This world is summarized by the words “adulterous and sinful generation.” Many Christians would like to point to some other sexual sin because it makes them feel superior, but from the Ten Commandments to this day, adultery is the sexual sin most often mentioned. In the Old Testament disloyalty to God is also called adultery.
Entry-level Christianity is to know who Jesus is. Mature Christians have met Jesus at the cross. They have learned what it means to carry our cross. I know of Christians who live sacrificially. They see God in others and worship him by loving their neighbor. They feed the hungry. They give a drink to the thirsty. They show hospitality to strangers. They give clothing to the naked. They fight for the sick to get health care. They visit prisoners. They defend the defenseless against being aborted. They lobby for the helpless to get help. They sacrifice for others. While others take advantage of them, they know their real inheritance is in God’s kingdom. These wonderful Christians have seen the cross and live it every day. They have learned what it means to live sacrificially.
Many will call Jesus Lord, but fail to take up their cross and follow him. Calling Jesus Lord is only entry-level Christianity. The cross teaches us what mature Christianity is all about. We are to take up our cross of self-denial and then we have the right to claim that we follow Christ.