We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' Acts 26:14
In case you wonder what this verse means, goads are sort of a pointed stick used to prod cattle forward. Sometimes the cattle decide they don't like submitting to the direction of the guy holding the goad so they kick at it, often causing themselves injury. I picture it like someone holding up a sword to direct another person and the second person grabbing the blade end of the sword in defiance. Ouch.
Mac was talking about healthy eating (with our clean-eating theme of late,) and he said something that brought this scripture to mind. "You can't cheat food. You can't eat a certain way and trick your body into not reacting to the way you're eating." Isn't this true of life? Of holiness? Of godliness? You can't cheat. You can't defy the direction of God, you can't cheat on the requirements and still enjoy the benefits. If we could simply throw up our hands in surrender and stopping kicking against the goads, how much more sense would life make?
Perhaps you don't like being compared to cattle? Perhaps you're even thinking about the fact that those cows are going to be slaughtered if they submit. I wondered at what point the analogy fails. Then I came to understand, it doesn't fail. Truly following Jesus doesn't stop at the point of slaughter. One can consider literal martyrdom but most of us won't face that choice. Still, there is a slaughter of the self in the pursuit of holiness. More poignantly, it isn't really we who do the slaughtering. Like cattle, we submit to being sacrificed. To use uglier terms, we don't fight against the death of Christianity. We celebrate the songs of life in Christ but like him, there is death first. There is walking to an altar and laying ourselves before God to die in him so that we can rise in him. No man who has been chased kicking and screaming in defiance to the Lord has actually found salvation. When the struggle is finally over, it is the peaceful submission that brings us to him.
In the passage of hundreds of years, I think we have become fools. Even Christians are ignorant, considering themselves totally submitted. For myself, every time I have knowingly eaten what I shouldn't, I have kicked against God. When I've been lazy, unkind, gossipy...kicking against God. Oh, how we love grace and mercy but oh! God help us we've embraced forgiveness and freedom so completely we kick against everything that makes us uncomfortable. After all, does God not want all of us, not the religious self only? He wants the steward of our finances, the keeper of our homes, the spouses of our husbands and wives and the parents of our children in submission. He wants the worker, the son and daughter and friend and neighbor moving in his will. No, not just the self who posts "hit like if you love Jesus" on their Facebook page. Not just the person who listens only to gospel music. He wants the person whose body needs to get up and take a walk around the block to do his bidding as well. Or the one who thinks about what they are owed by others instead of finding their satisfaction in Christ. He wants us entirely or he has us not at all.
And we kick against the goads.