The Uncomfortable Cross

I’ve been reading Brett McCracken’s new book Uncomfortable about how church is uncomfortable and why that’s a good thing. We grow through discomfort. It’s not only the people in church who are uncomfortable, it’s everything about Christianity, even down to what saves us—the brutal death of the God-man on the cross. “Just as it scandalizes by embracing humility in a world where pride reigns, the cross is also unpopular because it champions weakness in a survival-of-the-fittest world. This is why Friedrich Nietzsche rejected Christianity, ‘the religion of pity’ which ‘makes suffering contagious’” (47). McCracken lists five likely losses “that come with truly embracing the cross of Christ” (48):

  • The Loss of Being Your Own Boss

    • We wish to follow our own dreams, but “following Jesus requires a surrender of will” (48). Bonhoeffer said, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” (The Cost of Discipleship, 44-45). As long as grace doesn’t challenge who we are, our decisions, and what we want to do, we will easily accept it, but we won’t conform to it.
  • The Loss of Consumer Religion

    • We are not Christians because of what we can get, get, and get more, more, and more. We are loyal to the one who serves, and so we ought to serve and sacrifice as well. Our service shouldn’t be what we will get out of it, but how it will benefit the other person.
  • The Loss of Pride

    • Living a good life doesn’t put us on a higher plane of Christian living than the ex-murderer who turns to Christ. We don’t earn or deserve anything. Nothing we do can save us. Only Christ saves us.
  • The Loss of Power, Coolness, and Cultural Respectability

    • We are “strangers and exiles” (Heb 11.13) on this earth. As time goes on, our beliefs only become stranger and more offensive to the world around us. We are not cool. The old, rugged cross makes us uncool.
  • The Loss of Health, Wealth, and Comfort

    • Discipleship calls us to loosely opening our wallets instead of tightly clasping our hands shut (Matt 6.19–21; Lk 12.33–34). We are to put Jesus above even our own families, which can be uncomfortable (Matt 10.34–39; Lk 8.19–21; 11.27–28). We should even hold Jesus above our own lives (Mark 8.34–38; 2 Cor 11.16–33).
      Yet the New Testament speaks of persecution and suffering as events which grow us and cause us to flourish.
      “Suffering is perhaps the most literally “uncomfortable” thing about following Jesus that nevertheless grows us, strengthening our bonds as people that suffer together, deepening our devotion to and identification with Christ. The suffering of Jesus on the cross is something we can understand, something we can return to in our own moments of pain and hopelessness” (55).
  • The Gain

    • All that we suffer and lose is not the end of our story. “They lead to victory, resurrection, and eternal gain” (56). Jesus came as a humble servant and died. But what happened next cannot be missed. He was resurrected and ascended to the throne of the Father. He is given the name above all names. Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Christ’s story becomes our story. “We descend to ascend” (56). We will be exalted with Christ (Rev 2.26–27; 3.21). Victory is promised for us, but so is suffering.

      • Romans 8.17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
      • Romans 8.28-30And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
      • Romans 8.36-37As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
      • Colossians 1.13–14He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

See my review here.

Buy it on Amazon or from Crossway!

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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