Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17:33
The first Station of the Cross is the moment when Jesus is condemned to death by the government and his community. Even though Jesus was fully aware of his innocence, he didn’t argue or dispute with the mean spirited and damaging accusations which ultimately led to his social condemnation and crucifixion. The concreteness of his Love and Trust in our Father immeasurably outweighed the concreteness of his circumstances and innocence.
How much do we operate out of defending ourselves? Sure, this question could be applied to the church at large and we’d have a lot to say and question and even ridicule, but “the kingdom of God is not here or there, but it is within you,” (Jesus, Luke 17:21). So, before we start criticizing churches and their lack of kingdom-of-Godness, we should sit for a good long while with where Jesus says it is: within us.
This first Station presents me with a deeply personal question: what am I preserving with my life? With sensitivity and honesty, I can see how much of my efforts go to seeking or preserving comfort. Comfort takes many shapes: comfort on my days off, comfort in the pace of my work, comfort with how people think about me, in what people expect of me, in what I expect of others and myself, et cetera. Many times, I find myself desiring comfort rather than Christ; even desperately attempting to use Christ as my way to comfort. Talk about missing the point entirely! It is a painful mistake.
The fruits of this mistake show up in my offensiveness and defensiveness. Offensiveness and defensiveness are the product of unhappiness in life. Seeing this in myself helps give me a lot more compassion for those who treat me with defensiveness or offensiveness. When I am secure and in union with Christ, peace and happiness transcend understanding and circumstance. Jesus exemplified this with his silence while being insulted, publicly lied about and shamed, and later, physically abused. But when my relationship with the Source falls to the wayside, my emotions and actions begin taking control of me in a desperate attempt to create peace and happiness, which are uncreateable and can only be found. This is how we start seeking for the kingdom of God “here or there,” because we’ve lost it internally (meaning we lost our trust in and vision for It).
Sitting in front of his elders, peers, community, friends, and enemies, Jesus acts out in the exact opposite manner that comes so naturally to most of us. He was not concerned with preserving his reputation. He was not concerned with preserving his comfort. He was only concerned with God’s opinion and presence. He rested so contently in this that he could see the joy set before him rather than the agony presently glaring him in the face. He rested so contently in this that he could later pray in the darkest moment of his life, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He didn’t pray for it to go away. He prayed for them. We are invited into this same transcendent happiness and peace.
Christ Jesus, grant me such a conviction of Your Love that my circumstances and challenges may be eclipsed by the fullness of Your Spirit within me.