While walking with his disciples, Jesus had been preparing them for his suffering, death, and three days later, his resurrection. Then speaking to the assembled crowd and his disciples, Jesus explained how to become a disciple of his: “… Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
Most of us have read and heard these words many times. Sometimes, with words as familiar as these, it is easy to read or hear them without reflecting on their deeper meaning – at least it is for me.
Certainly, following Jesus means that we must do our best to follow his example and his teachings in all aspects of our lives. Jesus is saying, though, that following him within the boundaries of our comfortable lifestyles, among people of similar backgrounds and values, is not enough.
We must also be willing to deny ourselves, to give up whatever is important to us, if it is not important to Jesus. We must be willing to go outside of our comfort zones, to the point of paying a personal price and actually suffering for following Jesus.
Perhaps that means proactively and personally helping those who are hungry or homeless, or those who can’t provide for their families, or those who have no job and little prospect of finding one, or those who are otherwise neglected or without hope. At a minimum, it means asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” and responding accordingly.