Those who Take up the Cross

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

"But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Mark 10:38.

Toyohiko Kagawa:: "THE CROSS is out of date! In this new age a religion based on suffering is no longer of value. It should be supplanted by one of joy and hope and optimism. A religion based on pain is medieval and unsuited to our modern minds!" Though there are "enlightened" folk who say this, I do not agree with them. Progress involves sacrifice, and sacrifice is the only road toward perfection. It is an eternal necessity - the sacrifice of the parent for the child, of the teacher for his pupils, of the seed for the sake of the harvest.

We are more familiar with the necessity of such sacrifices in a vertical time-sequence - as of the older generation for the sake of the younger - than in their horizontal aspect. Sacrifice needs to be all-inclusive. We must assume responsibility for others born in the same age as ourselves, for society as a whole.

When a group of people make a contract to borrow funds, if one member in the contract fails, the next party must assume the liability, and if he fails, then the remaining parties to the contract must bear the responsibility. This joint responsibility for society is what we mean by social solidarity.

In the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians, the relation of the body to its members is used as an illustration of the mutual responsibility of people for one another. If there were nothing to hold the members of the body together, it could not function; so with society. If we are truly `concerned about its progress, we must take responsibility #or society as a whole.

In direct opposition to this, the tendency of Christianity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was toward individualism. In contradistinction to love of society, the individualistic virtues of independence and liberty were stressed. Thence came the terrible social corruption of our modern day.

The Cross of Christ has therefore two chief values. In the first place, it has a value in time. "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone." For eternal progress, eternal sacrifice is essential. One of the greatest of Christ's parables is that of the lost sheep. Then the Cross has also a value in space. These values are eternal principles for us. Those who are too selfish, and too much absorbed in their own satisfactions, cannot understand the meaning of the Cross. But for those who are striving to make society flawless in every aspect, the Cross is a universal principle.

Christianity has taken this Cross and without understanding its significance has explained atoning love as dogma. To those who are without love, it is naturally a difficult dogma. They do not understand what sort of life-principle love is. We must fix our gaze upon the Cross. And from the universal love revealed there, we must come to a sense of responsibility for the whole of society. This may seem simple, but its implications constitute a challenge as wide as the universe and as difficult to compass.

Three Steps in the Cross

The work of Christ manifested itself in three ways: first in teaching; second in practice; and third, in consciousness. His teaching was that of love; his practice, the practice of love; and his consciousness that of the Cross. His teaching was great in itself, yet it would not have made him great if it had been unaccompanied by practice.

Gandhi is an advocate of non-resistance but there is a group among his followers who on occasion throw bombs. The early Christians were consistent. They stood for taking no indemnity for injury and were absolutely faithful to this principle. Jesus himself is an example, and his movement may be considered as an unsuccessful revolution based on the principle of non-resistance. It is said that one tribe of Christians refused to fight in self-defense and were completely wiped out. To a wonderful degree of loyalty, they put their religion into practice. Today the Korean Christians, in the same sort of situation, though pillaged of their money by the army, put the teachings of Christ into practice. This is sublime.

Nineteen hundred years ago the practice of non-resistance on the part of the early Christians made scarcely a ripple; the world was not influenced by it. But the fact that we must note here is rather that they were fully conscious of what they were doing. That consciousness does influence us greatly. We must show ourselves Christians in the details of daily life, even in the way we light the kitchen fire. We must practice our principles not only among ourselves but in our relations with other nations. If we do not have the consciousness that we are the children of the true God, we look at those of other nations with scorn, and say, "That fellow's a foreigner!" We must practice our Christian principles as Japanese in our relations to the Chinese.

Christ's basic principle, which he expressed in saying that we must love even the very least of men, did not arise from his teaching, neither did it come from his practice. It grew out of the fact that he had entered into the consciousness of God. The consciousness of atonement, that is, the conscious sharing of the atoning purposes of God, is not separate from the consciousness of God, or the consciousness of being a child of God. Whoever would bear responsibility for others must have sympathies broad enough to include the failures, the human derelicts. He has not entered into the consciousness of God who looks at some mean fellow whom society counts worthless, and says, "Oh, that fellow l He's hopeless; he's just a good-for-nothing!" The nearer to God we come, the more conscious we grow of our responsibility towards those worthless folk who are regarded as the very dirt under one's finger-nail. If we ask why it was that Christ always chose the worthless folk, it was because he possessed a one hundred per cent consciousness of God; he shared to perfection in his own consciousness the redemptive purpose of God.

The communists tell us that all that is needed to set the world right is to destroy the bourgeoisie, because they have taken possession of a large percentage of the wealth of society. A capitalist who possesses property is guilty of a crime and the communists intend therefore to kill him. In this the communists do not distinguish between men and property, though even in the eyes of the law these are differentiated. This disregard of the sacredness of human life hinges on lack of consciousness of atonement; they do not share the consciousness of God. Although they have grasped the communistic principles of the Soviet intellectually, yet in their practice they are still "American" (and capitalistic), as one of their own leaders has said. But the three - teaching, practice and consciousness -must work side by side, as they did in Christ, and we must strive for a unity of these three aspects in our work.

The Realization of the Love of the Cross

We must have clear and strong convictions of our mission of atonement; we must share in the purpose of God, who seeks to redeem all. This is what I mean by becoming God-conscious. The disciples of Christ possessed this consciousness, even from the first century-of the Christian era. In the second century we find the early Christians spending their strength in nursing the victims of the plague, even though they themselves contracted the dread disease. The nursing of the sick is one of the noblest professions, for it is an expression of the spirit of the Cross. The founder of the first hospital was Gallicanus. Holding the rank of consul, he devoted all his fortune to setting up a place for the sick. He nursed them with his own hands and was eager to help everyone, even slaves. Our Japanese word for hospital is written with the two ideographs meaning "place" and "sick," a place for the sick, but that is not the real meaning of the word hospital. A "hospital" means literally "a place where kindness is shown." We are mistaken in calling it a place for sick people.

In the Occident in these "places where kindness is shown" the nurses often display greater nobleness of character than the doctors, and are highly respected. It is said that in England the automobiles will stop when they meet a woman walking along the street in uniform of the hospital of St. Thomas. There is the same attitude of respect toward nurses in America as well. There is a ,statue of the nurse Edith Cavell, in Charing Cross in London, and at the foot of the statue are the words, "Patriotism is not enough." When the Germans were displaying the bitterest hatred toward the English, Edith Cavell nursed the enemy soldiers with great devotion; but this nurse, who was the very incarnation of love, was shot as a ',spy. England has honored her by erecting this statue, ,and nurses have been granted the privilege of sitting next in rank to the plenipotentiaries of all countries at public functions.

You do not find the nurses in England starting a movement for higher wages; there are no such things as strikes among the nurses there, nor among the doctors, nor among the grade school-teachers. I am sorry that the nurses of Japan have been so insistent in demanding higher rates of pay. If one is going to be the sort of nurse who is concerned about getting a salary, it is better not to become a nurse at all. The doctor has no right to refuse to come, no matter when he is called. The true Red Cross means that one cares for the sick whether one receives a salary or not. Let us think of nursing as a practical expression of the love of the Cross.

The fundamental principles of redemption are not contained in theology alone; they must be actualized in social ways. Dogma is useful as an explanation of love. I believe in the resurrection in the sense that the love of God makes the resurrection possible. And the meaning of the Virgin Birth is that God's love is capable of it. And so with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; it means that God is not only a transcendent God, but that he enters into relation with mankind, he even dwells within us, poor and weak as we are. In the Father lies the transcendency of God; in the Son, his manifestation; in the Holy Spirit, his immanence. For that reason, if we reject the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, we are greatly put to it to explain the love of God.

I believe in God's sense of responsibility for the whole of society as redemptive love. This is the fundamental principle in the love of God. God's deep love has got into touch with mankind. Fundamentalism, therefore, is only a partial explanation of the love of God, and Modernism sees only the surface and does not dig down to the root of the matter. Here in Japan it is my earnest hope that our young people may not be carried away by either of these "isms." I do not want to emphasize theological controversies. I hope that our young people may rather give their whole energies to the realization of sacrificial love as wide as the whole of society and as broad as the entire universe. I pray that they may penetrate beneath the surface agitations of doctrine and dogma .to the great underlying law of love.

Only those who are fully conscious can thoroughly grasp the principle of love.

This refers to Dr. Kagawa's outline of human development as consisting of three stages: unconsciousness, semi-consciousness, and the fully conscious stage. This concept appears frequently in his pages, as in the poetical introduction, where he writes, "Then after a long interval came to full consciousness," and "Christ is the first man to awake to full consciousness of the Universe." His phrase, in the same poem, "This full Cross-consciousness," means the same thing, as also when he writes: "In the history of the human race there is needed the creation of this Cross-consciousness, that is to say, the creation of the inner life of its very soul." Dr. Kagawa's idea is that individuals awaken to this stage of full consciousness variously. Some are awake, and some are not yet so. - H. T.

In the individual, this principle is manifested as the Cross. We must re-study the meaning of the Cross from both the standpoint of theology and that of science, and re-discover its meaning; then it will be no longer a Cross for mere discussion, or a doctrine which but partially explains its meaning. The Cross will be an inner experience, and our consciousness of the Cross will be realized in practice.

The Road of Self-Limitation

The Cross, because it is the Cross, proceeds from the infinite to the finite. It originates in the heart of God ;? ut it takes the form of a human being, a man. There is !; an element of self-limitation in the Cross. Christ told ';his disciples not to go to the Samaritans nor to the Gentiles, but to the lost sheep of Israel. He told them to go to the lost Judeans, though they numbered but one per cent of the people. That means that we must choose our sphere of activity. Some must work for the proletariat, some for the farmer class. Some are to limit themselves to the work for those who earn their livelihood upon the sea. Some people are to limit their work to those who are ill. They do not go to those who are in health, but to those who are weak, to those who are "lost" through illness. We must dig deep in these limited fields of labor. As long as we are drawn hither and thither, and want to do this, and that, there is no Cross in it for us.

The worst limitation our Cross will put upon us will be personal weakness caught from our environment. If you go among the lost sheep, beware lest you yourselves should lose your way. It is the common mistake of elementary school-teachers that no matter where they go they think of themselves as teachers, and do not have the desire to be taught. When we go to work for the poor in the slums, we find them all talking roughly, and unconsciously, we too, before we know it, may have caught their rough way of speech.

Christ said a striking thing when he said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also and greater works than these shall he do." Those who take up the Cross and go forward are able to do astonishing things. The Mennonites, who were driven out of Russia, are putting into practice a wholly cooperative enterprise in Brazil. (The Mennonites, driven out of Russia, went both to Brazil and Paraguay, but their success has been more conspicuous and their numbers larger in the latter country.)

Nominal communism is worthless, but the communism of this group springs out of Christ's teaching. We have determined to take up the Cross and go forward, each in the sphere revealed to him. Let us guard against falling into sentimentalism, or against being carried away by this or that new tendency of the times. We are apt to fall into such errors. We must press on, carrying the Cross, each with a clear understanding of our individual mission in life. Before throwing the dice we must make sure whether it is heads or tails we mean to choose. I say of myself that I must be a gambler for God. Fully awake to this redemptive purpose of God, and consciously sharing in his love, I must heal this stricken corner of the world. When Japan has grown better, some of us will have to pour out our energies for China. The civilization of the world had its origin in China.

In whatever place we are, whether in some remote village far up in the mountains, or as a school-teacher in some tiny township on the plain, we must bestir ourselves and take up our Cross in that very place. If we face with aversion the office-ledgers we have to keep, we must realize that here lies the Cross for us. Only by patiently writing one ideograph after another is the manuscript ever completed. Let us advance, then, with our hearts filled with this consciousness of the Cross. Freed from every sort of error in our conceptions, let us press on, in philosophy, in science, and in theology, and most of all in our realization of the Cross.


O God our Father: Show to each of us the Cross which he must bear. Even though it be a path of suffering which stretches before us, help us to press on, fully conscious of the Cross, even to that final moment when we draw our last breath. Do not let us become too accustomed to peaceful paths and easy level roads, but give us the consciousness of the Cross, and teach us to share in the redemptive purpose of God, that we may make Japan into the Kingdom of God. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 11 of Meditations on the Cross by Toyohiko Kagawa. Translated by Helen F. Topping and Marion R. Draper. 1935.

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