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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Columnist: Gyapong, Ernest

A Problem-Free Christian Vs The Cross Carrying Christian

: A Paradox of Christian Living.

I have recently listened to copious PROSPERITY and WELL BEING messages from some acclaimed “seasoned teachers, and preachers” of the word of God. However, whereas I am not particularly against the financial prosperity and well being of God`s children (Christians) I find it difficult to accept the teaching that a “Christian should be problem-free ”. For how long will the devil stay unconcerned whilst you journey safely through this world to salvation? How can one refuse to fight when his/her enemy is constantly pursuing him/her? The only way you can be problem free in this world as a Christian is to accept the status quo, and act like everyone else and by so doing co-exist peacefully with the devil. That way you also throw away your Christian values and therefore cease to be a Christian. But even then you must bear in mind that by nature the devil is not a peaceful opponent. Also, you cannot claim to be problem free because you are too spiritually strong to be worried by the devil. The devil tested Jesus, and persecuted His disciples and therefore you cannot be an exception. “Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also….” (John 15: 30).

Jesus had to carry a cross whilst on this earth. For John said, “ And He bearing his cross went forth into a place …..called Golgotha (John19;17). Jesus subsequently reiterated, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Even though this sounds unpalatable, the truth is that you cannot follow Jesus without bearing your cross. Therefore bearing a cross is part of Christian living. Remember the Christian race is a journey, and the only time you will reach your destination is when Christ comes or you die. Similarly, you will keep carrying this cross until Christ comes or you die. Therefore, there may not be a better time to reassess your Christian life than when you realise you are no longer carrying your cross.

Also, unlike Jesus who carried a wooden cross, your cross may manifest in so many ways. Nevertheless it may mostly be imbued in the pressure on you to sin and your subsequent desire (propelled by the Grace of God) to resist this pressure. For example, the pressures to condone corrupt practices, to fornicate, to lie, to gossip etc. vis-à-vis your constant resistance to these acts may result in persecution. There may be times we may be struggling just because we refused to do things the way everybody does it. The truth is that “ others can but you cannot” do it that way just because you are a Christian. It is imperative to state that Christians live in a world whose rules, laws, actions and perceptions are in sharp contrast to the teachings of Christ. Therefore, taking the teachings of Christ seriously, Christians will be practically incompatible with most of the doings and happenings in this world. The problems we face as Christians in this world are more of the resultant effect of this incompatibility rather than God punishing us for our sins. That is why Christ said “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets (Luke 6:24). Obviously, if being a Christian has never denied you of any earthly opportunity then you might want to reassess your Christian life.

Additionally, we must also accept that even though Jesus asks us to carry our cross, carrying a cross is not fanciful. Jesus fell several times while carrying His cross. A cross can be heavy enough to prevent us from getting to our desired destination on time. It is meant to weaken us, sap us and weigh us down up to a point where we realise our physical strength can no longer take us forward. In other words, the cross is meant to weaken the flesh so we can seek spiritual strength from God. For Paul said “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong...For he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9,10). This does not mean Paul was weak and strong at the same time. By contrast, it tells us how impossible it is to be both physically and spiritually strong at the same time. Remember, his strength can only be made perfect in our weakness. Therefore, even though knowing that you were not given that job because you refused to have sex with the managing director, that your boss fired you because you failed to cover up his corrupt practices, that you lost that boyfriend because you refused to have sex with him, that you failed that exam because you refused to cheat in the examination hall may leave you frustrated, and weakened. It is also an indication that you are getting ready for His strength to be made perfect even in that weakness. That also means you might have gone too far to give up. Our insatiable desire to avoid the cross may thus be attributed to the difficulty in determining ex ante the benefits of carrying our cross.

The big question then is why are some preachers preaching avoidance of the cross instead of meeting it? Jesus carried his cross, Paul carried his cross, Peter carried his cross therefore our bishops, pastors, as well as us must also carry it if we want to follow Christ. Christianity is not mutually exclusive to earthly suffering. Longsuffering is one of the fruits of the spirit and just as a mango tree has no option but to bear mangoes fruits, so must every spirit filled Christian bear all the fruits of the spirit. In fact, bearing all the fruits of the spirit is the only evidence that the spirit of God is in you. I surmise therefore that the teaching that Christians must only live well on earth and not suffer, have problems or go through trials on this earth is unbiblical, resonates cognitive dissonance and makes Christians dependent on these preachers instead of God. However, the good news is that the spirit of God in us and the knowledge of the word of God have broken the tyranny of this DECEPTION.

By : Ernest Gyapong