Imagine being compelled by a desire to be close to every single person you know. Maybe if you had lots of money and showered people with gifts you could certainly get people’s attention. Yet would they be close to you? Would they not be further away from you because the gifts you give become a replacement for yourself and your friends would desire your gifts more than they would desire you and your company. Such was the experience of the prodigal son when his money ran out.
We have all experienced the loss of friendship. It may be that we caused offense to someone by something we said, it may have been because of convictions we hold about some aspect of the planet or way of life that we regard sacred that causes our friends to distance themselves from us.
Why should we care? If our friends don’t appreciate us for who we are then they can go! And this is where having a desire to be close to every person you know is going to cause you sorrow and grief. If you can simply wave goodbye to those who don’t accept your values there is no pain but if you love them and desire their friendship, the sight of them walking away is like a knife to the heart; your desire to be close to them runs straight into the wall of their desire to no longer be in your presence.
So imagine wanting to be close to every person in the world not only now but for every person that has ever lived. Then add to that the fact that every person that has ever lived has a natural inclination to dislike you or be wary of you. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply let them go? Seriously, the pain of trying to come close to every person in that situation would cause you a grief beyond comprehension. And so you can begin to get your mind around the extent of the meaning of the cross.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isa 53:3
Every day that Christ breathes life into the human race, provides the sunlight, water and other essentials needed to provide the bounties of the earth. By His Spirit He speaks gently into the souls of men of the beauty and joy of His Father commandments. In response the hearts of men hide themselves from him, they pretend not to hear; not to understand or even accept that an appeal is being made to them. With each appeal there is a cost. The Lord Jesus is a real person with real feelings. When He is ignored, rebuffed and His name used as a curse word, it causes Him sorrow. In watching the masses of humanity caught in the net of human philosophy and man-made religion that severs the soul from Christ, He is wounded, bruised and grieved. When the impression comes to the human heart and says “aren’t you tired of living this life of selfishness? Don’t you desire something better for your life?” and the soul turns away Christ is disappointed and suffers from rejection.
You would imagine after some time of seeking for a persons friendship, that the sorrow of rejection numbs the outstretched hand of appeal and that in order to preserve Himself He must cut them off.
Isn’t that what human reason would tell us? “Don’t let them continue to wound you! You must save yourself and come down from this cross and cease to allow them to hurt you like this!” The desire to hold on and continue to love will only yield more and more grief, so wouldn’t it be better to forget them in order to save you all the pain? The determination to hold on is the suffering of the cross.
In becoming a follower of Christ we are invited into His life of rejection and scorn. We are invited to receive His loving desire for the humanity around us and reach out to them and appeal to them to come to the Son of God. In taking up this work we are told by our Saviour
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23
Daily we are invited to enter into the labours of our master. We are invited to intercede for those lost and suffering in sin. We are invited to patiently endure the scorn and rebuke as we do this. Yet for many people who claim to follow Christ, there appears to be a rather comfortable road to travel and sometimes even popular. Some preachers for Christ appear to live rather well from preaching the name of Christ and don’t appear to endure much suffering for Him?
As the master warned us:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Matt 24:4-5
Many would claim to represent the Son of God but would deceive many? Why because they would be blinded by a counterfeit Son; a Barabbas that comes in his own name rather than His Father’s name because the Begotteness of the true Son of God is not palatable for the majority.
Jesus gently reminds His followers:
It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Matt 10:25
When I accepted the begotten Son of God within the communion of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I was introduced to a meaning of the cross I had not previously comprehended. As a minister of this communion I was closely connected to many people. My life experiences and history had been bound up with this community. Yet in accepting the begotten Son, I entered into the sorrows and grief of my Master.
Upon learning of my love for the Begotten Son, a few of my friends approached me and questioned me about why I had changed lovers. Why did I exchange the second person of the Trinity for this “low born” begotten Son of God? When I began to speak earnestly with them and they could see my new found love had totally captured my soul they soon ceased to talk with me. Their silence tore at my heart. Like the thief carrying his cross alongside the Saviour, I felt the taunts and ridicule of the crowd and I felt an urgent desire to preserve myself from this crushing weight. Even though I deserved to die for my crime against God and was worthy of death, in my heart I recoiled from it.
This secret shame of the cross would manifest itself in the expression of my pain in words of frustration and anger. It would taint all my motives in responding to the growing injustice of my former friends who either simply silently pushed me out of their lives or smiled sweetly at me when we chanced to meet but never dared talk about anything I believed or was doing.
Mercifully victories would come. I would drink of the humility and grace of Christ and he enabled me to endure several sorrowful episodes. I distinctly remember the night of my disfellowship from the Adventist Church. My open display of love for the Begotten Son could not be tolerated. I could not speak that name within the precincts of the Adventist Church. It was and remains a cardinal sin to speak in this name. I remember the several people that disfellowshipped me that fearful night of June 4, 2012 when the moon shone bright and full in a cloudless sky. I remember the love that flowed into my heart from my beloved Master. Such love in the face of rejection and scorn. Having tasted that love and knowing it did not come from me, I continue to desire that kind love that can love its enemies and turn the other cheek. After my disfellowship the weight of the cross caused me to fall to the ground beneath its weight. My heart wrangled at my suffering and I lost touch with the reality of daily carrying that cross. My dear Saviour continues to draw me deeper into the death of the cross, to lay down my life and accept the scorn and rejection and enter into the fellowship of His sufferings.
Like my Master experienced, my former friends haunt me with words – come down from the cross and we will accept you! Give up this stupid belief in the begotten Son and bow before the second person of the Trinity and we will once again accept you and reclaim you. I turn and look to my Master in anguish upon the cross and I cry out to Him, remember me Lord when you come in your Kingdom and He says to me in return, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.
Each day that I think of my friends, I sit and stare at Facebook pages and wonder if I should message them. Should I tell them I love them, that I miss them and face the risk of more rejection and scorn. It is the path of my Master. To reach out in love and not in an arrogant spirit that says “I have the truth and you are completely wrong!” It is so easy to turn away from the cross through angry words and enter into a spirit of debate that rules the hearts of many who profess a belief in the begotten Son. Facebook groups are full of hurt and wounded souls who do not wish to take of the cross and submit to having the cheek slapped. They will slap back and twice as hard. Oh Lord Jesus deliver me from that spirit. I repent of letting these thoughts of retaliation cross my heart and mind.
So Facebook becomes torture when I see the faces of those who once loved me and now dread my presence. When I speak they hear the words “unclean! unclean!” – When I scan my own address book on my computer and I see many names of former friends, I feel the sorrow, I feel the loss. Wouldn’t it be easier to forget them? Why not come down from this cross and save yourself? Yet it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives and loves in me. I can’t stop Him from loving others through me if I desire Him to live in me.
Therefore I must carry the cross of sorrow and walk with the man who is despised and rejected of men. I must be crucified with Christ if I desire to allow Him to be the love of my life. But I see in Him such matchless charms and exclaim Oh how I love this begotten Son of the Father; sweeter than honey more precious than gold. I can’t sell him for thirty pieces of silver or even for twenty as Joseph’s brother did to him.
Jesus asks His servants, are you able to drink of the cup that I drink? I answer Lord you know all things and you know that I believe your agape lives in me by faith. I know that in carrying your cross, I am only walking beside you who is afflicted in all my affliction and carries it and bares it all the days of old. Isa 63:9. There only ever is one set of footprints in the sand for my Saviour has never put me down and always carries the weight of the cross. I am only asked to walk with Him and this is enough for me to drink. I know that without Him I can do nothing and He does not allow me to be tempted above what I am able to bear.
So this is a great test now for God’s people. Some secretly accept the begotten Son but will not speak openly about him for fear of their Adventist brethren. The cross of rejection and suffering is too great and so they feel compelled to remain silent and say nothing. Others openly and boldly accept the begotten Son but they also reject the sorrowful suffering servant by railing on those who reject the truth in a spirit of aggression and accusation. This also is a denial of the cross, it is a refusal to suffer with Christ and turn the other cheek. How narrow is the path of the cross!
This is an appeal to take up your cross, to enter into the suffering and rejection of the begotten Son. To allow yourself to be rejected, treated with scorn, mocked, mistreated and have lies told about what you believe. Friends let us enter into this cross for our Master, let us take hold of Him and then continue to reach out to our friends knowing that Christ bears our suffering and that He can cause us to provide a soft answer to our accusers and love them even as Christ loved the men that nailed Him to the cross and said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”