Bearing Crosses and the Myth of Redemptive Suffering, Part 3

Bearing Crosses and the Myth of Redemptive Suffering, Part 3 February 22, 2024

Bearing Crosses and the Myth of Redemptive Suffering

As we wrap up our consideration of the gospel call of bearing crosses and the myth of redemptive suffering, let’s consider Jesus’ cross within Mark’s narrative itself.

In the story, Jesus:

  1. Stands up to the injustice he sees happening around him
  2. The system threatens him with a cross if he doesn’t shut up
  3. Jesus refuses to be passive. Refuses to be silent. Refuses to shut up. He keeps pushing. 
  4. The response of state is to put him on a cross.

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(Read this series from the beginning at Part 1 and Part 2.)

The third step in this chronology is what it means to embrace the way of the cross. A cross is not intrinsic to following Jesus. A cross only comes into our Jesus-following if our oppressors or abusers choose to threaten us with one. If our standing up to injustice threatens them enough for them to use force to sit us back down and get us to be silent and passive. It is at this point that Jesus’ words begin to take on life-giving rather than death-dealing meaning. I offer my comments in brackets:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross [be willing to not be silent] and follow me [in speaking out].

For whoever wants to save their life [through remaining silent] will lose it. [We lose a part of ourselves every time we are silent in the face of injustice.]

but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel [being willing to speak out in face of rejection and pushback] will save it [hold onto and even reclaim our humanity that the system wants to exploit while denying].

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, [through going along with the system]

yet forfeit their soul [silence your own conscience in what you know to be right]?

Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? [Whatever the cost of speaking out, it’s worth it. Whatever the reward being offered for being silent, it’s not worth it.]”

The cross is not the injustice or abuse we are to bear. The cross is what our oppressors or abusers threaten us with if we don’t cease and desist speaking out. To be willing to bear a cross means instead to keep speaking out, don’t be silent, keep calling for justice, keep holding abusers and oppressors accountable. This is the only way we and they will ever experience change. 

How we define bearing a cross—whether passively bearing injustice, or refusing to be silent in the face of injustice—may seem to be a subtle interpretive difference. But for a Jesus follower it makes all the difference in the world in how we respond to abuse and suffering. 


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About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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