Defiance Blocks, Submission Unlocks God’s Grace

2000px-Gadsden_flag.svgLately, I’ve been impressed with and writing about my own and humankind’s weakness. We have a great deal of trouble doing what we know is right, and we succumb to harmful temptations frequently. That explains a lot of our problem with lifestyle illness and poor health in general, but it’s not the whole story. Sometimes we’re just defiant; we simply refuse to do what we know we should do.

Case in point – seat belts. Recently, John Nash, the famous mathematician, and his wife died in a traffic accident after being ejected from the vehicle.   A few months ago, CBS correspondent Bob Simon died of injuries sustained in a car crash. He, like the Nashes, was an unrestrained, back seat passenger in a car for hire. Both of the belted-in drivers are alive. This isn’t an isolated problem. Pretty frequently I read local newspaper reports of traffic accidents in which unbelted people have been ejected and killed. I’m sure you do too.

What’s that about anyway?! What can it be about? Surely not simply personal weakness or temptation. There’s nothing hard about buckling up, and riding while unbuckled is not a sensuous thrill. It can’t be about ignorance. Everyone knows the rationale for and the benefit of seat belts. And it’s not for lack of external motivators. “Click it or ticket” laws are common and well understood. No, I see only one reason not to buckle up – defiance! “I won’t and you can’t make me!”

But why be defiant? It’s in our nature. Defiance feels good to us. We like being rebels, non-conformists, doing our own thing. Especially in America, where cultivating a fierce independence of spirit is practically a religion. But this is also a basic human trait, part of the fallen nature of humanity. Each of us wants to be “king of him- or herself,” and to prove our power we act out. Seat belts are just a clear example of this larger issue. We defy our parents, our teachers, the government, social conventions, God, and even basic common sense or objective reality. We’ll do whatever it takes to reassure ourselves that we are in charge. Basically, “Defiance-R-Us.”

That’s not how God calls us to live. Submission, not defiance, is the way of Jesus. We are not kings of ourselves, and if we try to hold on to our own power we lose – in this life and in the next. Why are lives still being cut short in car accidents for lack of proper restraint? Why do people purposefully, willfully keep choosing this and other harmful behaviors? They refuse to submit to God or man.

Don’t be like that. Submit and be well. I’m still impressed that weakness is a huge issue for us humans, but defiance is the worse problem. It’s more upstream, a blocker of God’s grace. When we submit, God helps us in our weakness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can gradually overcome much of our sinful behavior to live fuller and healthier lives. But submission comes before strength.

Given the rapidly shifting state of postmodern society, an extra note is probably warranted here. Christians often need to defy social norms in a secular society. You will need to live very differently (even “abnormally”) from the average person to be physically, emotionally and spiritually well in today’s world. Christians may be even called to defy governmental laws and regulations in so far as they conflict with the higher law of God. This kind of defiance, defiance of man’s improper ordering of society, should flow from submission to Jesus with a joyful spirit, and not from one’s own pride or self-righteousness. Easy to say, hard to do.

Submission remains the first step.

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And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”    Mark 8:34-38 ESV