When my husband, Eric, was in his early twenties, he went on a mission trip to inner city New Orleans. One night his team decided to do street evangelism on Bourbon Street, holding up a large wooden cross as a visual demonstration as they preached and handed out tracts. Eric was relatively new to street evangelism and felt reluctant to participate. He felt there were better ways to share the gospel with the lost, ways that wouldn’t make him look like such a fool. As the other missionaries set up the large wooden cross amid a sea of partiers, Eric kept his distance.
He didn’t want to get too close to the cross. As long as he remained several feet away from it, he could pretend he wasn’t really with those “kooky Christians” who were holding the cross and preaching about Jesus amid a mocking crowd. He stood there awkwardly, halfway between the swarm of noisy street revelers and the group of missionaries with the wooden cross. Though his heart was pounding and his body was full of tension, he tried to look as nonchalant as possible. Maybe I can just hang in the background and silently pray for these lost souls, he reasoned to himself.
But he was so uncomfortable he couldn’t even put two words together for a prayer. All he could think about was how to stand as far away from the cross as possible without completely abandoning his missionary team. He didn’t want to be part of the wild and worldly street crowd. But he also didn’t want to be part of the radical team of missionaries who were being ridiculed and scorned by everyone around them. So he remained halfway between the two, feeling miserable.
Are You With Him?
“Hey Eric!” one of his team members motioned to him. “Can you come here and hold up the cross?”
He froze on the spot. He’d been trying to stay as far away from the wooden cross as possible. How could he swallow his pride enough to actually hold it up in the middle of Bourbon Street?
But inexplicably, he suddenly found himself walking toward the wooden pieces and placing his hand on them. The moment that he grabbed onto the cross and turned to face the massive crowd of partiers, he felt a strange emotion overtake him: pure joy. A sense of radiant happiness seemed to flood through him, and he couldn’t keep a smile from spreading across his face. Just a few minutes earlier, he’d been safe from public mockery, but he was restless and miserable. Now, he was the object of public ridicule, and he felt excited and alive.
As he held onto the cross, he pondered the dramatic transformation that had taken place within his soul. There was no longer any question where he stood. He was no longer waffling halfway between the world and radical Christianity. He had crossed the line and chosen his side. Everyone who saw him knew he was with Jesus. They laughed, they cursed, they spat, and they threw things at him. They hated him because of the cross that he was holding—and he’d never been happier.
His own comfort and popularity didn’t seem to matter anymore. As he clung to the cross, only one thing seemed important: standing boldly for the glory of his precious King.
An hour later when another missionary asked for a turn holding the cross, he reluctantly handed it off. He would have stayed holding that cross all night if he’d been able to. Eric had stumbled upon the secret to vibrant Christianity—not merely standing near the cross, but clinging to it and gladly bearing its reproach.
Many of us buy the lie that taking a stand for Christ should never make us look foolish or threaten our popularity. But as daughters of the King, we are not called to merely stand near the cross of Christ. Rather, we are called to embrace it and lift it high for the world to see, even when others mock and revile our faith. When people observe our lives, they should see us clinging unashamedly to that cross and boldly declaring, “I’m with Him!”
This doesn’t always mean holding up a huge wooden cross in public. It means living unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ in every decision that we make. When we are willing to stand boldly for our faith—no matter how foolish we might look to others—we can make an amazing impact on this world for Christ.
If you find yourself hesitating to boldly share the gospel with others or to take a strong stand for your faith, I encourage you to ask God to equip you with the supernatural courage you need to change this pattern. Ask Him for the willingness to place your Christian witness far above your own popularity or comforts. Ask Him to show you ways, small and big, that you can begin to boldly lift up His cross, rather than just sheepishly standing near it, and begin to live a life that proclaims, “I’m with Him!”
It may seem scary to take those steps of obedience. But when you become unashamed of the gospel, you will be filled with joy, peace, and fulfillment beyond what human applause could ever offer—just like Eric experienced that night on Bourbon Street as he clung to the wooden cross.
Grabbing Splintery Wood
The cross of Jesus Christ, as the old hymn says, is an “emblem of suffering and shame.” But it is also the place of the most glorious redemption in history. Because of what Christ did for us on the cross, we have passed from despair to hope, from defeat to victory, and from death to everlasting life. As daughters of the King, we cannot merely take the benefits of the cross; we must also be willing to bear its reproach. Jesus gave everything for us, and He asks us to give Him everything in return. Are you ready to take hold of that splintery wood?
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@LeslieLudy shares the secret to vibrant Christianity, today on @lywbblog.