I few weeks ago I read Pastor Joel Tooley's report of a post-election political campaign rally he recently attended in which he felt called upon to protect a mother and child who were being physically threatened and the experience of the threats and vile language that he, his young daughter as well as the woman and her child experienced.
And then in my scripture reading a few days later (Matthew 16) I read, again, this verse
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 'If any will come after me, let him come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosover will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'"
And I was struck that, unlike the point made the various Bible commentaries I've read about this passage that talk about the importance of maintaining your faith and your truth-speaking about Jesus, in spite of persecution, for me this is more. It is about being willing to be uncomfortable, tired, exhausted, brave in the face of fear, and to suffer emotional or physical pain and even experience death as a consequence of living Jesus' commandments to love, feed, protect, visit, help, educate and succor those you are called, as a disciple, to assist.
In Jesus' time, each condemned man or woman carried his her own cross, the very thing upon which they would suffer and die.
And for us, taking up the work that we do as disciples is, in fact, carrying with us, always, a work that, if we do it right, will result in our being in situations that will result in our suffering fear or pain, and, for some of us, physical death, as we love, feed, protect, visit, teach, succor and help.
And the call is to do that difficult, often courageous, work when we encounter it, and not just simply keeping ourselves and our families safe, refreshed, happy or comfortable in the blessings of the gospel.