Thursday, October 17, 2013

KJV versus JST: Taking up the Cross to Follow Jesus, Matt 16:24-26

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KJV
24 ¶Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt 16:24-26)
JST
25  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
26  And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.
27  Break not my commandments for to save your lives; for whosoever will save his life in this world, shall lose it in the world to come.
28  And whosoever will lose his life in this world, for my sake, shall find it in the world to come.
29  Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls; for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (JST Matt 16:25-29)
The JST does several things here that help us.   

First it adds language to show us that taking up the cross is not self-flagellation and losing one’s life for Christ’s sake does not mean one goes around with a death wish.   

Second, it brings the sweeping metaphorical language of “take up the cross” and translates it into a few principles that we can use as a guide in everyday living.  These principles are 1) denying ourselves of ungodliness and every worldly lust and 2) keeping the commandments.  We can look at everything we do and evaluate it by these standards.  We can even evaluate the things we do for fun by this standard to see whether there is any ungodliness or lust in it and whether it allows us to keep a commandment. 

Another thing we get from the JST is some instruction for extraordinary situations of temptation.  The instruction comes in the form of two statements.

“Break not my commandments for to save your lives” -- Jesus knew that life could present dilemmas in which we might be commanded on pain of death or some other serious loss to do something expressly against Jesus’ commandments.  (It certainly happens in times of terrible persecution.)  This statement makes our course clear, though it certainly will not be easy, and makes more specific what the promise of “lose your life in this world to find it in the world to come” is attached to.  Without this little bit of JST and the understanding that it is for extraordinary circumstances, followers of Christ may suffer from some anxiety of wondering just how to lose their life for Jesus’ sake, wondering if they are expected to seek out situations to sacrifice their lives or whether they should embrace a more radical asceticism. 

“Therefore forsake the world, and save your souls.” – Jesus also knew that there might be situations when the Saints might be specifically or implicitly offered huge rewards if we would just compromise our standards in some respect or break some commandment or pass over wrong-doing.  (This happens in situations when the Saints collide with corrupt systems.)  He recognized that unless we remembered the value of saving our soul for eternity, we might think it an excellent trade.  We have to remember the worth of souls, the reward of eternity with God and use that to help us sacrifice the temporary gain, power, praise, or fame of the world.

Understanding this helps me feel a little more secure that it IS possible for me to take up my cross and forsake the world, whether it is in everyday decisions or extraordinary circumstances.  I think I will be a little more alert to notice those situations in the future.  It also helps me understand how I can keep temple covenants of sacrifice.