Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.Matthew chapter 16, verse 24; from the New Living Translation
Those who know me know that I like college football. Now mind you, NOT over-inflated ego NFL football. College football! And I love the Conference that all other Conferences like to hate–the Southeastern Conference or S.E.C. And I’m passionate about the Team that most folks absolutely hate–ALABAMA! ROLL TIDE! I got to thinking this morning that THE Season begins in less than a month. And those 3 letters that most folks hate began rolling around in my gray matter. S.E.C.! S.E.C.! And I started thinking about Grace!
Many folks want a S.E.C. Grace! I opted in for S.E.C. Grace because the term Cheap Grace was already taken. So, what’s a S.E.C. Grace? Glad you asked. It’s Simple, Easy, Comfortable Grace! And I’ve noticed this about the S.E.C. Grace crowd–they are found in both the conservative camps and the progressive camps. In fact, the theological belief systems don’t really matter. Many people, way too many people, think of grace as that Get Out Of Hell Free Card!
Granted, it sounds good to say Grace is Simple, Easy, and Comfortable. After all, doesn’t God keep us Safe? Isn’t it so Easy that a caveman can do it? Just have faith? And doesn’t it take away the misery of guilt and make us feel Comfortable? But then there’s these words from Jesus:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Those who want the S.E.C. Grace fail to understand that in accepting God’s Grace mandates that we also follow Jesus! Now, let’s do high school biology anddissect what Jesus says. First He says “you must give up your own way”. Sounds simple, but it’s not exactly simple. Here’s the truth: we WANT our way and will fight to keep our way! We have this inherent thing called sin; and it wants to be in charge of us. And it will fight against us tooth and nail to win. Then He says: “take up your cross”. I don’t know about how you feel, but to me there’s nothing that sounds Easy about carrying our cross. Sounds like to me that I need to be dying every day.
And finally Jesus says: and follow Me! Does it sound comfortable to you to go the places where messy and broken people live, work, and play? While Jesus promised us the Comfort of the Holy Spirit, He never promised that He would make us Comfortable. Following Jesus is going head-long into the battlefield! It’s about making sacrifices. I know many combat veterans, my son and son-in-law included. But never once have I heard any of them describe their battlefields as making them feel Comfortable!
Grace doesn’t mean we get what we want. Grace doesn’t mean we get to keep what we want. And Grace doesn’t mean we get to choose where we go. Now, for some, this may sound like an argument against Grace. It’s not! It’s the reason why not just any “grace” will work. God’s Grace includes His presence and power to help us overcome the sins that hounds us to death. His Grace isn’t a one-and-done thing. It’s a lifetime of growing, being stretched, and discovering the exciting things He has for us to do. And the joy that is waiting for us, on the other side. Grace that doesn’t challenge us–well, it’s just a S.E.C. kind of grace. And that’s simply not worth having; it just doesn’t give us what we need.