Cross-Shaped Lives

Sitting in an all-too-quiet and empty room by himself after his wife stormed out of the house, a husband asked himself, “Why is she so upset?” Perhaps the answer lies in her hormones or it might be his cloddishness. Although we tend to dwell upon “why,” the more important question now facing that husband is, “how are you going to behave toward her today?”
How might a male respond? That can be as varied as there are personalities and interpretations of what just transpired. Some men might think to themselves, “she doesn’t deserve any tenderness for treating me this way.” Accordingly, they might go on the offensive by yelling. Other husbands might respond through making demeaning remarks. It is hard to love someone who offends you … especially if you don’t know why.
A cross-shaped husband’s behavior will seek to nourish and build up his wife in godly ways even when she is not pleasant to be around. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … in the same way, husbands must love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:25,28).
Walking through a mall, a group of teenagers were laughing and having fun as they checked out their favorite stores. Suddenly one girl spied something sooo cool. Immediately group conversation shifted to this newly discovered treasure. Everyone agreed this was the greatest! Having quickly calculated that she could buy it if she put it on layaway and used all of her paycheck money for the next several months, one of teens boasted, “I’m going to buy that right now!”
When your feelings and desires drive your behavior, it is hard to deny yourself what you want, when you want it. Honoring God first with the blessings he has provided you and having saved some resources to be able to show care and compassion as the need might arise can become lost among the shopping bags. Jesus taught that being his disciple involves denying oneself and taking up the cross daily to follow him (Luke 9:23).
Tension was rising quickly in the congregation as heated opinions about pews or chairs spilled forth in the meeting. Quickly it became clear that while pews would be better for some, chairs would more adequately serve the needs of others. The message of Christ crucified is to move us beyond demanding my rights and freedoms toward imitating Christ’s love toward others through service and building up others (1 Corinthians 8-9; Philippians 2:1-8).
The message of the cross is a compass guiding God’s people into appropriate cruciform behavior. The cross teaches us to die to our own arrogant and demanding ways. Instead, Jesus becomes our Lord, enveloping our priorities and actions within the driving force of love. “I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).
So, who am I today? Am I reflecting the cross in my life?

2 Replies to “Cross-Shaped Lives”

  1. Dear Barry,
    I just wanted you to know that I was blessed by your article on cross-shaped lives. Yesterday I put together a lesson plan for our group leaders who are leading a series of classes on the church. This Sunday we are dealing with the cross shaped church. I’m going to recommend that all the group leaders check out this article on the website.
    Grace and Peace
    Norman Bales

  2. I am grateful that these thoughts on how the cross is to shape our lives were beneficial. It is good to hear from you again.
    Grace and peace,
    Barry Newton

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