John Calvin on Matthew 5:1-4
Here we need to reflect on the kind of life to which our Lord Jesus Christ calls us once we are in his school. He bids each of us renounce self, and take up our cross. The word “cross” implies that everyone should carry with him his own gallows, that we should be like those poor wretches who have a knife to their throat, that we should be afflicted and mocked, that not only should death be our companion, but that we should be vilified and slandered as well, insulted and spat upon. We are meant to endure all of that, to bear bravely the burden placed upon our shoulders, just as a traveler might carry his bundle on his back. As so our Lord declares that we cannot come after him or be counted as one of his followers unless we take up our load. To do that we have to give up our comforts! We are to be as men condemned, under threat of death, beset from every side, our life lived in continual weakness…In a word, to take up our load is to be reckoned as utterly miserable so far as this world is concerned. That is the plain ABC which is taught in the school of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Sermons on the Beatitudes, p. 19)
I wonder how many of us view the Christian life this way. We quote the verses, such as take up your cross, etc. But we do not see ourselves as dying daily. We love our comforts, our easy living. Calvin does not mean that we must go and live in a monastery forsaking all material possessions. What he means is that we must learn to die to self, in the kitchen, at the office, on the floor with our children, at church with our sinful brothers and sisters and most of all before the watching world as we cling to Christ and are hated by the world.