Jesus says: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him… take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). He does not say: “Make a cross” or “Look for a cross.” Each of us has a cross to carry. There is no need to make one or look for one. The cross we have is hard enough for us! But are we willing to take it up, to accept it as our cross?
Maybe we can’t study, maybe we are handicapped, maybe we suffer from depression, maybe we experience conflict in our families, maybe we are victims of violence or abuse. We didn’t choose any of it, but these things are our crosses. We can ignore them, reject them, refuse them or hate them. But we can also take up these crosses and follow Jesus with them.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey.
I think we need to hear this as Nouwen meant it. It is fatally easy for those whose cross it is not to argue that, on these grounds, victims of abuse and injustice should “just put up with it.” This is not what Jesus meant, and I don’t believe it is what Nouwen meant. Jesus was both vocal and practical in his support of the abused (Mark 5.21-43, John 8.1-11)—but taking up something as one’s cross is not the same as agreeing to do nothing about it. Ignoring, rejecting, refusing, hating: these are not ways to do something about injustice. The martyrs do none of these things, yet in their non-violence, in their Gospel response, they achieve far more for justice than any violent revolutionary ever did.