Focolare Word of Life, March 2015

The cross, the ‘daily’ cross as Luke’s gospel calls it (Lk 9:23), can have a thousand faces: an illness, a job loss, the inability to sort out family or work problems, the sense of failure in being unable to create genuine relationships, the feeling of impotence before the world’s massive conflicts, indignation at the recurrent scandals of society… The cross does not need to be sought, it comes on its own, perhaps when we least expect it and in ways we would never have imagined.

Jesus invites us to ‘take it up’, not resigning ourselves to endure it as an evil we cannot avoid, not letting it come down on us and crush us, not even putting up with it by acting with stoicism and detachment. Instead welcome it as a sharing in his cross, as a possibility of being his disciples even in those situations and live in communion with him even in that suffering, because he first took our cross on his shoulders. In every suffering, whatever it may be, we can thus find Jesus who has already made it his own.

Fabio Ciardi

Christianity is not just about Jesus’ cross but about us taking up our cross daily to follow him. It is not enough to take up the cross. It has to be taken up in an attitude of, “This is the will of Jesus and God and I accept this cross because this is so.” That is fanaticism because the cross should be accepted for your own sake not theirs. Yet Jesus made it clear that the cross is to be carried for him and God. But what if Jesus was a fraud and there is no God? Jesus told the apostles that he was giving them a new commandment to love one another just as he has loved them (John 13:34). Since God had commanded all to love one another as themselves and to love him above all things Jesus cannot mean anything like normal love. He must mean that as he loves his disciples enough to die for them so they must do the same. But there is only one way to prove you manage to keep this commandment and that is by courting martyrdom so Jesus is commanding bloodshed.

In Mark 8 he said that anybody who calls himself his disciple must take up his cross and follow him for whoever loves his life will lose it and whoever hates his life will keep it. If losing your life was final Jesus would not have asked you to suffer so much so it must be dead serious. Whoever prefers earth to God and Heaven will lose his life on earth and in Heaven. He means that whoever hates their life on earth and chooses life with God will find life with God forever. He is not saying that you must reject temporal life totally but he means that you must live your life on earth for God and nothing else. Though you live on earth you want God and that is what you live for. Cross denotes a slow and agonising execution.
This rule was just pure cruelty for he did not command his disciples to fast all the time like John’s did. In effect, he told them to love their lives.
Jesus was saying that if we don’t get ourselves into big trouble and even get killed for him and set the stage for these things to happen we will not enter heavenly happiness. The cross is carried to the place of death and execution and disgrace. Jesus said that he would carry his cross to his death and we should do the same if we are his. The apostles were not all crucified so is cross just a symbol for persecution unto death? Jesus is not saying that they will be crucified but that if they are lucky enough to be martyred they should be. They are to carry the cross in hope of it.
The apostles worked in places of danger when they would have been safer elsewhere proving that Jesus wants people to become martyrs.
Crosses mean crosses and not burdens.
If he had just meant that we must carry our everyday crosses the way many interpret it, he would have used the word burdens instead of cross.
We may answer that he did not mean that. He told us to love a life with God on earth which means that the cross is a symbol for burden. But that life is meant to be used to sacrifice yourself daily until you make the ultimate sacrifice, death. He is saying that if you don’t bring martyrdom on your head you are not loving your life with God on earth because you are not loving God.

Another objection is that the New Testament in Luke says that we must bear our cross every day so that the cross must mean the little and large upsets of everyday life and not something that takes you to your death. But Jesus carried his cross for several minutes to Calvary and we have to carry our cross for every day until the Devil’s emissaries hate us so much that they kill us and we die for Jesus. If Christians or the Jews Jesus approves of as his followers are being crucified you could tell them to carry their cross every day though each one carries it only for a few hours. Luke can still be taken literally. Pilate had Palestine littered with crosses.

A happy person is not a true Christian for Christians are supposed to make enemies like Jesus did. He said that a curse was on anybody who was well liked.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 that you must not fear those who can kill your body but the one who can kill your body and soul in Hell.  Is this him Satan? In Matthew 10:25, 26 speaks of Satan and his demons and advises his disciples to place no fear in them.  God then is the one who kills body and soul in Gehenna and is to be feared.  With that picture of God, he might be capable of throwing you in prison forever.  This shows how literal his warning that you are doing something wrong if you cannot face an actual cross on suffer on if it is presented to you is.

Matthew 10:31 makes Jesus tell the apostles to flee from one town where they are persecuted to a safer one. This does not contradict Mark 8 where he asks us to carry our cross after him. Jesus told us to live to carry the cross and then die for him which means that we must only die when there is no escape. He did not drag the apostles with him to Golgotha.
Jesus allegedly died for his faith. If so, he knew that his terrible death was coming and did nothing to avoid it – which the gospels say - but embraced it with the passion of a lover. So, he expects us to do the same. His death resembles the death of one who dies to increase the power of evil in the world. His death is more likely to be meant as a bad example for us that he hopes will destroy us than to be meant to save us from sin. The doctrine that Jesus saved us by his death is full of holes and nobody could honestly believe it. We don’t even have any evidence that Jesus ever was crucified.

Even Jesus’ doctrine that he came to reveal God to us is a weapon of destruction for people for it leads to death.

The doctrine that God has spoken to us infers that if we lie for a serious reason and that is right then we cannot trust God who revealed the faith to us for he has such mysterious ways that he could tell us a lie for some purpose we cannot understand. So approval of lies or the toleration of error infer that taking revelation seriously is evil. Jesus certainly did expect us to take revealed religion so seriously that we had to invest it with ultimate importance. So, if lies are right we are to die for what may be lies. If lies are always wrong then we are to die rather than to lie or to encourage deception. If I believe that Jesus is the son of God and I am asked to deny him or to foster some deception about him or his ways then I have to get killed or I have to kill myself if there is no other way to avoid the denial or deception.

Nobody can deny that faith in Christ is faith in a murderer.

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Putting Away Childish Things, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1994
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Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire by Richard Carrier



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