Following on from my previous posts, here are some brief summaries/reflections on the next few chapters of Victor Kuligin’s book, Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said.
Chapter 4: The Art of Spiritual Self-crucifixion
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
In other chapters, Kuligin deals more specifically with aspects of carrying one’s cross such as spiritual commitment and suffering; here, he explains the image of the cross. The one carrying it knew he was on the way to an agonising death, all earthly hopes gone. We must be prepared to crucify ourselves spiritually, giving up worldly and sinful desires to follow Jesus. Sacrifice is expected and may involve daily agony.
Chapter 5: The Art of Spiritual Martyrdom
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:11
In our culture of avoiding suffering and favouring get-rich-quick schemes over “no pain, no gain”, we need to learn that suffering for Christ is to be expected by believers, is a necessary discipline for building character, and is even a privilege. More specifically, persecution can be considered a blessing because it is a sign of our affiliation with Christ, among other things.
Chapter 6: The Art of Spiritual Love
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43b-45a
Persecution produces enemies, and while it is important to defend the truth of the gospel, Jesus teaches that we should not retaliate when personally attacked. Kuligin points out that we can’t just be indifferent towards our enemies, but must actually show love towards them – and what a powerful and unexpected love that must be! Of course, it is just how God has treated us.
A beautiful picture of what love for enemies can look like is found in Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion trilogy. The protagonist, Hadassah, whose family has been killed, is sold into slavery yet displays incredible practical love for her masters. It is a worthwhile read.
I’m really evaluating my life rather than reviewing a book here, and after six chapters, I can’t say my life looks overwhelmingly like what Jesus has called me to…