“As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.” Luke 23:26 NIV

Has life ever put something on you that you hadn’t expected to carry? There are times when our lives are interrupted by unexpected burdens. It’s as if God says, “Here! Carry this for a little while.” Underneath that unexpected cross we want to ask, “Why me?” But it’s underneath that cross that we meet Jesus.

They were marching Jesus up to be crucified to a hill called Gologatha. Jesus was weak from having lost so much blood from the cat of nine tails ripping the flesh from his back. On top of that, he was carrying an old rugged cross that was scraping against his open wounds. When he collapsed under the weight, the soldiers grabbed an African named Simon who was coming in from the country. They made him carry Jesus’ cross.

It seems that throughout American history black men have been accosted and made to carry crosses. Even during Jesus’ day men were made to carry the backpacks of the Roman soldiers who occupied Jerusalem.

No one really knows what it feels like to have to carry a “forced” cross like minorities in America.

What are those crosses we are forced to carry?

  1. Poverty— children who are born into poverty are less likely to come out of it. Close to 50% of black children in Memphis live in poverty.
  2. Racism—black men in America have a lower life expectancy than white men in America. They are more likely to be pulled over by the cops and more likely to be killed by the police.
  3. Domestic terrorism—when the horrible act of 9/11 occurred, Dr. Cornell West said that America had just experienced “Niggerization!” When you’re niggerized, you’re unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, hated for who you are. You become so scared that you defer to the powers that be, and you’re willing to consent to your own domination. And that’s the history of black people in America. 

When Simon was forced to carry Jesus’ cross he was able to have an encounter with a liberator named Jesus! There was some kind of spiritual transaction that took place between Jesus and this African. We know this because the oldest form of Christianity is found in Africa. Many African Americans, Christian and non-Christian, do not realize that some of the most influential of theologians and pastors originated from northern Africa. Perhaps confusion about their origins begins within the Christian tradition itself. Despite being of North African descent, Clement, Origen, Athanasius, and Cyril spoke and wrote in Greek while Cyprian, Tertullian, and Augustine wrote in Latin.  Hence, both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches refer to them as the Greek and Latin Father. They were Africans!

Underneath crosses that were forced upon us, people of color have come to experience the liberating power of Jesus Christ. The next time you find yourself under the burden of an unexpected cross look for Jesus! He’s there!

Dear God,

Help me to bear my cross, but more importantly to experience a life saving transformation while being under there with Jesus! Liberate your people who are still oppressed by racism, poverty and terrorism. Liberate us until freedom rings true across the United States and every third world country controlled by colonizers and oppressors. Turn our crosses into transformation stations!

In Jesus’ Name,