A cross to bear?


By Tom Hoffmann - Pastor Jesus of Nazareth once said to his followers, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Those words were uttered, daringly, in the face of a brutal Roman regime that used crucifixion as a means of silencing people like Jesus who might rock the boat. As such, the call of Jesus to bear the cross had a rather specific meaning. It was a call to suffering, even potential martyrdom, in the hope of promoting a way of life that built true community through radical love of God, neighbour, and self. And so, in the Christian tradition over millennia, the call to the believer to “take up your cross” for such noble purposes has been ever present. Sadly, though, in Christian churches, communities and families, the language of cross bearing has also been misused and abused. Women have far too often been coerced into staying in abusive relationships in Christian households with the words, “Maybe it’s your cross to bear...” Marriage, for Christians, has tended to be seen as virtually inviolable, to the point that even the disclosure of abuse which might come with the question, “Should I leave?” has been considered a moral dilemma. If it is not being done already, it is time for the Christian churches to make it abundantly clear that to even implicitly urge someone to stay in an abusive relationship is to conduct spiritual abuse. It must be made clear that there is no godly cross to bear that is built of domestic and family violence. The words of Jesus must never be used to protect perpetrators and enslave survivors. Simply put, leaving an abusive marriage need not be a dilemma of Christian morality. An abusive partner has already abandoned their marriage vows. Survivors need to know they can go in peace and in good conscience. Taking up your cross, in the way that Jesus spoke of it, might mean dying for your faith – people are still martyred, even today, in some parts of the world. But taking up your cross never means taking a beating from your husband or wife. Bearing the cross is not about suffering for the sake of the suffering itself. There are burdens in this life that are not crosses we are called to carry. We do not have to bear the unbearable sins of abusers. We can leave that to Jesus. If you, or someone you know, needs help, experts in the field are available on 1800 RESPECT 24 hours a day •

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