Ala Carte dining is a delight to some because each item on the menu is separate, providing the opportunity to choose only what is desired. Some restaurants offer ‘specials’ and in the fine print you see this line – ‘no substitutions allowed.’ My Mother-in-law makes me smile when we go to an Italian restaurant. The waiter is always surprised when Mom orders her chicken parmesan with a side of mashed potatoes rather than pasta. Ah, the joy of choice.
Our love for freedom of choice does not mesh well with the call to being Christ’s disciple yet that is precisely how many Christians practice their faith. Those truths they find hard, that go against the grain for them, are excused away, reasoned out of existence, or simply refused on the basis of “I just don’t believe that.” It’s not a new thing. Thomas Jefferson, the admired third President of the United States, actually went to the trouble of creating his own Bible. He took a sharp instrument and cut away part of the text he found disagreeable! A copy of the text he created exists in the Smithsonian Museum. The 84-page volume is bound in red leather and titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.
In my morning meditation today, I read the following text from Peter’s letter to Christians. It’s one of those texts many Christians conveniently ignore in our time. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “”But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25, NIV)
Speaking directly to those who were slaves, but in fact to us all, Peter commands submission, a willingness to accept suffering! “Come on, Jerry, surely you don’t believe Peter was approving of slavery or injustice?” Of course not. But, he was inspired to teach us that when those things enter our lives in this sinful world, rather than taking to noisy protest, rather than making retaliatory threats, we entrust our care to Christ Jesus and like the One who died for us, take the suffering on ourselves to allow God to do His work.
I am quite sure that more than one of you reading this blog today just shook your head and said, “Nope, not for me. I won’t just take it.” And that is your choice. I have done that, too. However, when we disregard what God asks of us, we are on our own. We step outside of His providential care. He lets us refuse Him and lets us taste the consequences of our willfulness. Some learn, turn, and find the grace to live joyfully in submission to His will. Others, like the ancient children of Israel, persist in complaint, resistance, and rebellion until they die in the desert of life, separated from the living water of the Spirit by their own willfulness.
Radical discipleship requires the abandonment of Self to live ‘in Christ.’ There is no middle ground, really, to be found in the true life of a Christian, for Jesus asks to be Lord of life, not just parts of life.
Here is a word from the Word. May the Spirit make it live in us for the glory of God. “It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” (James 4:6-10, The Message)
Abba, thank you for patiently waiting for me to yield,
for persistently inviting me to resources found only in You.
Forgive me for refusing You because I am convinced I know better,
for resisting Your way, preferring what seems best or comfortable.
Tell me again of Your amazing love, let me see Jesus anew.
In that place of humble surrender, may my heart find
a joy and security that is unknown to those who will not
trust with a child-like heart.
Keep me from self-will, I pray.
In Jesus’ name. Amen