Against the Grain
Would it be fare to say that people today, in general, have a problem with authority?
Take the word ‘command’ from the Bible. It is an important word throughout the scriptures, but we might secretly wish it were a different word. Because we typically don’t like to be commanded to do something, right? It doesn’t matter what it is, if you are commanded to do it, you instantly don’t want to do it. If mom said, “Eddie, take out the trash.” I would likely comply. But if she would have said, “Eddie, I command you to take out the trash.” I may have reacted differently. “You, command me? What’s that all about?” Being commanded to do something naturally rubs you the wrong way.
And for some reason the Bible uses Command a lot. There are the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament which are part of the Law – another word that when combined with God – the Law of God – sounds unwelcoming to the modern ear. And there are the commandments of the New Testament. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you…” In one place and while many of us know what He said after that, for a person who is not yet a follower of Christ its, “Dude, you lost me at commandment.”
I wish there was a word that carried the weight of commandment, with the same meaning, that I could substitute when talking to a person about Jesus. Because at first glance, being a Christian looks amazing from the outside – there is unfailing love of God, His grace, which seems like a magic blanket that you are covered with that causes Him to look the other way when you screw up – I mean, forgiveness, mercy, victory, glory, heaven? Come on, that’s the life, right? Sign me up! But then comes the stickler. Sigh. There’s a requirement. We must obey His commandments.
The life of a Christian is, in large part, obedience to the commands of Christ. That is a tough pill to swallow for the modern person. Why would God insist on that since it goes completely against our grain, cuts squarely across our natural makeup. One reason, the main one I think, is that obedience to His commands makes you tender and gives you a pliable, moldable heart for God.
Think about cutting a good steak. We’re told by butchers and chefs that it is imperative to cut against the grain in order to have a tender steak. The reason is that the flavorful muscle is built with long fibers that run the same direction, a perfectly cooked steak cut with the grain, leaving the long fibers in tact, is like chewing a tasty rubber band. You must break down the long, tough fibers into smaller lengths to create the tender, perfect steak. The only way to get a tender steak is by cutting against the grain.
In like manner, there is no other pathway to life in Christ except through obedience to His commands. Precisely because it goes against our grain to do so. But it is here, in simple obedience to His commands, that a tender heart, a heart for God, is formed inside a Christian. There is no other way.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15