After multiple beatings, debilitating flogging, sleep deprivation, and hatred and lies spewed at Him, Jesus was barely able to stand, let alone carry His own cross on the long route to Golgotha. So the soldiers pulled a man from the crowd, Cyrus of Cyrene, and forced him to carry Christ's Cross, following behind Jesus as He was led to His death (Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26).

Simon most certainly did not know Jesus, or realize he was carrying the cross of the Messiah, but it would certainly have a profound effect on his family.

Simon of Cyrene is named in this story because he was probably the father of Alexander and Rufus, two men who later became followers of the risen Christ. Simon's wife likely ministered to Paul (Romans 16:13).

Today we refer to "taking up the cross of Christ" in our own lives - a seemingly simple task compared to what Simon the Cyrene was forced to do. We take up the cross voluntarily, with joy and gratitude, and with the intent of serving Christ perfectly and selflessly throughout our day.

Then we promptly drop it.

Why, in a nation that is "Christian-friendly" relative to most parts of the world, where we have the freedom to pray, to study God's Word, and to worship publicly without censorship or persecution, do we so quickly forget and leave His cross behind before we've even stepped out the door? And what does it mean to "take up Christ's cross", anyway?

Taking up the cross of Christ means that we live for Him. That we accept all the burdens He accepted in His perfect life: resisting sin - not only sinful actions but sinful thoughts; enduring persecutions - not just the verbal ridicule of godless people, but the physical abuse many endure even today in other nations; the proactive aid He provided to the poor, widows and orphans, and the blind and lame who He healed; and His selfless love for all sinners (that's all of us), that He suffered death on a cross to redeem from God's punishment.

The answer to the first question appears to answer the second. No wonder we promptly drop the cross we so eagerly took up. Those things Jesus did - every moment of every day of His life and without fail - demonstrated a level of perfection that we could never attain, even for a single day.

But the Christian is called to this. For most of our lives, we may fail - which shows our need for His saving work; and one day we may succeed only to fall the next. But each day we take up our cross in the hope that when He comes, He will find us obedient.