Although Jesus spoke these words to the Apostles as they began their danger-filled evangelistic career, they apply equally to all believers today. Jesus warned that the Gospel would evoke anger and hostility from many people, leading to rejection and even suffering for the Christian messenger. But those who follow Christ must forsake all competing “loves” in order to gain eternal life. On another occasion, Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 9:34). Between self-denial and fellowship with Jesus lies the cross. Will we take it upon ourselves? What does it mean to take up the cross and follow Jesus? Self-denial comes first. Putting to death the evil deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). Paying any price to avoid sin (Matthew 5:27-30). Serving others before, or perhaps even instead of, oneself (Romans 15:2-3; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 2:4). That leads to following Christ in the footsteps of His suffering for others (1 Peter 2:21). Specifically, that might mean: Staying in an unhappy marriage; not responding to criticism with self-justifying remarks, much less in anger; taking a lower-paying job in order to preserve integrity; staying home to care for children. In short, to take up the cross is to crucify all the “idols” of the heart – the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and “rights” that keep us from loving and serving others. Is it worth it? “He who loses his life for My sake will gain it.” We walk behind a Man who endured the cross because of the joy set before Him, and who right now enjoys intimate fellowship with God the Father.