Self-Denial:Despite what many of us who were brought up in penitential atmospheres have been taught, in the teaching of Jesus to “deny oneself” (ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτῷ [aparnēsasthō heautō]), especially when it is linked, as it is here, with a command to “take up one’s cross,” has little to do with the practice of asceticism (i.e., to deny something, especially pleasures, to oneself). Rather, it involves the rejection of a presumed prerogative, in this case the right to defend one’s life (ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι [psychēn autou sōsai]) at all costs when faced with danger or death. More particularly, when we take into account how Jesus links “saving” one’s life with seeking “to gain the whole world” (κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον [kerdēsai ton kosmon holon]) and what seeking “to gain the whole world” signifies, to “deny oneself” means to give up as valid any idea that one has the right to preserve self or life from danger or death through the exercise of self-aggrandizing power. So, “to deny oneself” entails not only accepting a posture of defenselessness in the face of danger and death but also rejecting seeking worldly power and dominion through worldly means.—The Disciples’ Prayer, pages 71–72
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Take up the cross
These texts show that the disciples’ cross is not what it is often thought to be—a metaphor for some difficult family situation, a personal loss, a crushing debt, the frustration of one’s hopes, a nagging in-law. It is, rather, what Jesus’ cross was—the price likely to be extracted by the rulers of the world for one’s nonconformity to the ways of the world and for challenging injustice and worldly conceptions of power. For this is not only what brought Jesus himself to be crucified. It was what he was consciously aware would bring him to this end. So being a “son of God” entails being ready and willing to endure persecution and suffering, even to the point of martyrdom, for the sake of faithfulness to God (cf. e.g., Matt. 5:9-12).