This episode finds John and Gregg discussing Chapter Eleven from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. Gregg begins by agreeing with Idleman’s view that crucifixion was ultimately humiliating. Specifically, the importance of ‘honour and shame’ in 1st century Palestine means that crucifixion not only results in a grueling death but also completely abases and discredits the victim.
Yet where Idleman argues that we can’t really be “taking up a cross” unless we experience suffering and loss, Gregg objects. First, the cross’ ultimate significance in terms of suffering is in how God reverses false expectations (i.e., the peoples’ political expectations for Jesus and the notion that public suffering is dishonourable) in favour of correct expectations: Jesus is actually glorified by God because, as messiah, he meets God’s expectations about / for God’s kingdom!
Second, Gregg insists that understanding how to interpret what “suffering” means today requires understanding the 1st century context (where, for example, “carrying a cross” had not only physical and psychic implications but huge social cost). So Gregg proposes that cross-carrying means today “embracing the way of Christ,” which has two key implications.
On the one hand, it means following Christ’s (and the Bible’s) top priorities: loving God entirely, loving ourselves rightly, loving others likewise, and having the law “written upon one’s heart.”
On the other hand, it means being aware each day that, relative to the value of the kingdom of God, the things that we think are of greatest worth (social standing and values, and even our lives) are as nothing. The result could be hard choices that entail hardship, which may or may not include physical suffering or shame. Suffering or shame is an outcome not something to be pursued as an end.