And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27
When Jesus said, "And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple", the meaning would have been readily understood by the people of the first century. However, its meaning is largely lost in the 21st century. When people think of the cross today, they may think of church, Christianity, or Jesus Christ. But back in the first century, a cross would have meant the cruel method of torture and execution.
The early church did not use the symbol of the cross, because the cross was a despicable representation. A form of execution that originated with the Persians and was later adopted by the Romans, crucifixion was designed to humiliate a person and bring a slow, excruciating death. The cross also served as a warning to anyone who saw it that they had better not mess with Rome. The sight of a man surrounded by Roman guards and carrying a cross through the streets meant that he was about to die a long, painful death.
So when Jesus spoke of discipleship as carrying your own cross and following Him, His hearers would have immediately caught the meaning. It means they must die to self and live only for Him. It means they must die to self-ambition and be committed only to His church and His Kingdom.
But today the cross has lost its meaning. For many, it is little more than a fashion accessory. Like the woman in the jewellery story who asked to see the crosses "without the little man on them," many people today are looking for a cross without Christ – a Christian life without sacrifice. But if we are to be followers of Jesus, then we must take up our cross.
Let's ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you to greater commitment to Christ, His church and His Kingdom.