We all live our lives leaning forward, going somewhere, pursuing a pilgrimage to the good life. At first the choices seem almost limitless, but in reality, we are all headed in one of only two directions: Further into the wilderness of this dying, passing world, or out of it, self-consciously bound for glory, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Think of a passenger on the Titanic, denying reality, running back inside from the icy gales on the deck by the life boats, back for another drink in the doomed ship's glorious bar. The sensible, however, awake to the danger, they forsake the comfort zone, choosing instead to commit their bodies to the icy waters, hoping for salvation.
In a similar sense, the Christian embraces the via Dolorosa. Out of the city, he plods, placing his feet in the footsteps of Christ gone before. As the ultimate counterintuitive enigma, this is the path to life, but it feels like death. It feels like death, of course, because it is death -- death to this the world and its promise that life can be had without God -- that you can have all you ever dreamed for without God!
In myriad ways, and with Siren-like sweetness, the world whispers this promise, but it never delivers. Those who believe the lie reach for life but they always find death. This is why Jesus said, "He who seems to save his life will lose it. But he who seems to lose His life will find it." This is the strange logic of Christ's kingdom. It is those who lose themselves who find themselves, those who deny themselves satisfy themselves, and those who empty themselves fill themselves. This is the way Christ found life -- for Himself and for us all. Coming into union with Him, takes us down the same lonely path. It is the path to heaven, and in this world, at least, it is the path less traveled.
This thought came to me this week when I was reading Sinclair Ferguson's, Devoted to God. Commenting on the passage quoted above, he says,
Paul is not saying he is weak in himself but strong in Christ, true though that is. Rather here he is saying that it is in Christ - not in himself - that he is weak! What does he mean? Union with Christ means that we come to participate not only in his death but also in his weakness. this weakness is not something from which union with Christ delivers us, but into which union with Christ brings us. Union with Christ does not protect us from suffering but commits us to suffering. Because of the closeness of our fellowship with our Lord we find ourselves sharing in weakness, suffering, persecution, trials, and shame like that experienced by Jesus Himself
In this, just as in every other way, the servant is not greater than His master. It is only by faith that we can grasp this paradox: The way down is the way up, dying is the path to life, and service is the lifestyle of kings.
The cross is the way for Jesus and for all His people. Let us pick it up then, we have a Savior to follow.