A Cross Shaped Devotional: Are You Cruciform?
Don’t let the familiarity of Jesus’ commands to love God and love others lull you into Sunday-School-auto-pilot mode. Don’t let your heart respond with a bored “whatever” to these instructions. God’s commandments, whether the Big Ten or the Great Two that sum them up, are not mere imperatives, but also invitations. When Jesus invites you to live life in right vertical relationship with God and right horizontal relationship with people, He is commanding you to be what you were created to be. You and I were created to be cruciform, so Jesus is doing us a favor by commanding us to live the cruciform life.
Jesus has the nerve to say that these are the loves for which we were wired. If that’s true, then out of all the visions of life that are available to us, this cross shaped life of loving God and loving others is the pursuit to which we should abandon ourselves. Jesus calls us to lose the “me first” life to which we cling so desperately, so that we might gain the “you first” life (“You first, God” and “you first, neighbor”) that has been transformed by the gospel.
Questions for Reflection:
- Think about your love for God and consider the following questions: Can you honestly say that you love Him with all your heart? Your soul? Your mind? Do you enjoy loving God and being loved by Him? Do you enjoy being completely known by God? Do you pursue knowing Him? Can you abandon your heart fully to Him or do you hold part of it back? Can you pour out all the good, bad, and ugly of your heart to Him? Do you prize Jesus above all things and relationships? What brings you more joy than His love for you? Are you angry with God? How long has it been since you’ve spoken to Him or spent time with Him? How long has it been since you’ve heard from Him? Do you readily submit to or steadily resist His will for you? Do you submit joyfully?
- Now, think about your love for people in the various circles of your life and consider the following questions: Can you honestly say that you love them as much as or more than you love yourself? Do you enjoy loving others? How well would you say you love the people in your life? Can they taste the love of God in your love for them? Which of those relationships are strained right now? Do you serve them? Which relationships are you using for your own gain right now? What about the authority figures in your life…do you struggle to submit to them? What about those over whom you have authority or for whom you have responsibility…do you struggle to serve them? How do you treat the grocery cashier, the server at the fast food restaurant, the other drivers on the road? When it comes relating to others, do you have a “me first” heart or a “you first” heart?
- Jesus made it clear, both with His lips and His life, that the cruciform life of loving God and others requires “denying yourself” or “losing your life.” As you review your responses to the questions above, consider whether your love for God and your love for others costs you anything: What am I giving up in order to love God? What am I giving up in order to love the people in my life? Am I loving God and others until it hurts? What might God be asking me to lay aside in order to love Him and others more?
Examination is painful, but repentance is the pathway to joy. Now that you’ve assessed your heart for God and others, you can gather all of the lack of love and the self-centered living you’ve uncovered and take them to the foot of the cross. Preach the gospel to yourself again.
“Repent and believe in the gospel, Jesus says. Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all the glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.”
~ Frederick Buechner