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"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to
  one who is striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau
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Do we have to justify or earn our right to exist through extreme testing,
struggle or burden bearing, OR do we just need to start believing the best
about God and ourselves? What does "Come unto me, all you that are
heavily burdened, and I will give you rest" mean?

Cross: Obligatory Burden or Tethering Stake?
Updated: 07/14/2020

The Religious Hold on Us

What is the primary thing that a man will hold dearer than life?

Does anyone know anybody that will lay down his life to save a car instead? Probably not. Some men will trade their physical lives to save a wife or children. But, untold numbers of men have sacrificed their lives to save their belief system. Just try to get a man to release hold on his religious paradigm through application of logic and reason! Does that EVER happen?

Some of us HAVE to a greater or lesser yet significant degree let go of our birth-given religion, at least some of the major dogmas and doctrines. This has usually been done under duress with great anxiety, even pain, and then usually only haltingly, reluctantly and slowly. However, given that the various belief systems aren't working to deliver what we ultimately want and need, why is it such another thing altogether to proactively challenge our belief system and to be willing and anxious to change it where needed? Does that EVER happen?

The False Call to Suffering

Below are the two passages that are traditionally translated, "take up his cross and follow me". This translation rather consistently takes us into the mindset that Jesus is asking us to share his burden, become willing to suffer the slings and arrows of being a follower. You know, those vicissitudes that God in his infinite wisdom allows or even visits upon us to build our character and refine our faith in the crucible of tribulation. However, the translation of the Greek word "stauros" as cross is a somewhat artificial or forced one, because the much more general meaning of the word is stake or peg meant to be driven into the ground to tether a goat or the corner of a tent.

Matthew 10:34-39 "Do not think that I have come to cast peace on the earth; I came not to cast peace, but a sword. For I came to dissever a man from his father, and a daughter from her mother, and a daughter-in-law from her mother-in-law; a man's <spiritual> enemies can be those of his own household. The one loving father or mother above me is not worthy of me; and the one loving son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; he who does not pull up his tethering stake and follow ME is not worthy of me. He clutching his life <psyche, meaning the normal or usual pattern of life> will lose it, but he losing the pattern of his life on my account will find it."

Commentary: We should readily be able to understand that Jesus did not come to disrupt loving relationships. Indeed, he set the pattern for acceptance and loving of people that did not appreciate him or understand him and his mission. He honored Peter's relationship with his mother and even at Peter's request bestowed upon her a healing miracle. Can we not see that Jesus is speaking somewhat metaphorically here, where the family members stand for the old paradigm, belief system and religion? And yes, the dissevering often becomes literal, but it is the family members and friends that break the relationship; we are never obligated to do this.

Matthew 16:24-28 Mk 8:34-9:1 Lk 9:23-27 Then calling the crowd near with his disciples, Jesus told them, "If any man would follow after me, let him deny himself and pull up his tethering stake daily and follow me. For whoever may desire to hold on to his life <psyche, meaning usual lifestyle, pattern or agenda> will lose it, but whoever may lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, this one will find and save it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and damage his life <psyche> or forfeit his life or lose his self-identity? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his psyche? For whoever may be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also will be ashamed of him when he comes into his glory with the Father and the holy angels (doctrines or messages?). For the Son of man is about to come into the glory of his Father with his doctrines, and then he will reward to each according to his works. Truly, I say to you{pl}, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death before they see the kingship of God having come with power and the Son of man come into his kingship."

Commentary: The crucial two words in the above passage are "deny himself". Can we not hear this passage in the context of "serving God and mammon"? Can we not hear this passage in the context of caring more about what God thinks than what our friends and family think? Other than the comfort of staying in line, going along with the crowd, being one of the ninety nine sheep, to what did Jesus refer when saying "deny himself"? It cannot be that he is asking us to deny the sustenance and fulfillment of our lives, because we are to "have life, and have it more abundantly!"

Part of what is being suggested above is that we need to challenge what we are hearing Jesus say or mean. Take for example the statement he made, "Be ye perfect <mature> even as your father in heaven is perfect." The temptation is to hear this as a requirement, and a heavy or impossible one, but this is a pure assumption, and hearing it this way would be really discouraging. However, Jesus made it clear that we are NOT to worry about our own spiritual growth, and that his "yoke is pleasant" and his "burden is light". Given this, we should hear this as a benediction or a promise, not a requirement from God for attention to us.

By the way, Jesus, the Father, and the holy doctrines or "messages" all came into their glory at the cross. When we see the passion play as not one of sacrifice but as one of a demonstration of VALUE–and trust–in his creation, then we will understand the glory.

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