By LESLIE LUDY
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 during Mardi Gras, holding up a large wooden cross as a visual demonstration as they preached and handed out tracks. 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 on Bourbon Street amid a sea of drunken 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 that 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.
“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 spit, and they threw beer. 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.
As we consider what it means to be set-apart for Christ, we must examine our lives in light of a crucial question: are we standing in the vicinity of the Cross, or are we clinging to it? Are we constantly strategizing how to stand as far away from Him as possible, while still calling ourselves Christians? Is our own reputation more important to us than His?
Amy Carmichael wrote, “What is the secret to great living? Entire separation unto Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man or woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts.”
Sisters, let us stop waffling somewhere between the world and the Cross – embracing Christianity only so far as it does not threaten our comforts or popularity. When people observe our lives, they should see us clinging unashamedly to that Cross and boldly declaring, “I’m with Him!”