When I am studying with someone about Jesus Christ I make a real effort not to sell them on a discipleless Christianity. In the past I have been so nervous that to say too much was going to scare people away but the result was a nominal and uncommitted “conversion” because people were buying into Christ as savior and not as Lord.
There is a real paradox in the sign of the cross. The cross can be burdensome as we learn to give up our old ways and take on a new life. The cross leads to a total death of self (which is not easy or pain free) and does not come naturally to us. Yet to go the way of the cross also means living the life God intended for us to live in all fullness. As Bonhoeffer wrote, “Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer…To go one’s way under the sign of the cross is not misery and desperation, but peace and refreshment for the soul, it is the highest joy.” – CofD, 91, 93.
The paradox of the cross – losing and gaining, laying down and taking up, suffering and joy, absence and presence, empty yet full, aliens to the world but children of God!
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Mark 8:34
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Mtt 11:28-30
Following Christ is the richest and deepest paradox of human existence because it is not about who we are. It is a paradox that is who we are. It is lived out on a daily basis and involves our very being and lack thereof.