This week I met with a man who takes supplies and aid into a very difficult country (not Germany). The underground church in this country is thriving, yet completely isolated from the rest of the world. His heart has always been to communicate somehow with these believers that they are not forgotten, but rather they are loved and prayed for.
So when they go in to the country they wear a cross on a necklace around their neck.
One day, one of the aid workers was getting into an elevator and just before the door closed an old lady jumps through the door, grabs the cross on his neck, brings it to her lips, and kisses the cross. The elevator then arrived at the floor, the lady got off, and was gone.
No other words, no other interaction.
I have reflected a lot on this story this week. I have often wondered why the underground church in that country thrives so much. I believe the difference, perhaps, was prophetically proclaimed to us through the action of this old lady. They willingly and joyfully kiss the cross.
The cross was a torture and death instrument. It was not originally a thing of jewelry. To kiss the cross means that we embrace death and torture and do not try to get around it.
But we do not kiss the cross because we think that there is somehow a twisted joy in pain and suffering and death. That is perverted. We kiss the cross because know that on the other side there is a joy and peace and blessing that far exceeds any suffering and death that this life has to offer. It is a different suffering than just going through the struggles of every day life. I have heard many equate the difficulties of life with "carrying our cross." Being sick is not carrying our cross, that is a result of living in a broken fallen world. Being sick and with every breath pointing others to the Savior, is definitely suffering for HIm. Having malaria because you take the gospel into places where it does not exist, is kissing the cross. Someone being rude to you at work is not suffering for your faith. Someone doing evil to you BECAUSE of your witness for Jesus is. Are you seeing the difference? Just embracing bad stuff that happens to us is not good theology of suffering. Embracing suffering because of our witness is. Taking the trials that you have been given and using them as an opportunity to speak of Jesus is suffering for the sake of the gospel.
The people in the country previously referred to could see much of their suffering go away - if they gave up their stance on Jesus. But He is too precious to them.
We have, as our example and our leader, the One who perfectly modeled Kissing The Cross - today I resolve to fix my eyes firmly on Him - Jesus.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:1-4