On the Spot

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30

How do we live as Christ lived? Why do Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:30 not resonate with us as his yoke being easy and his burden light? Didn’t Jesus call us to love our enemies (those who hate us), and if someone slaps us, to offer our other cheek as well?

In Dallas Willard’s book,The Spirit of the Disciplines, he calls to question Christ-likeness in the everyday Christian life.

“The ease, lightness, and power of his Way we rarely enjoy, much less see, as the pervasive and enduring quality of our street-level human existence.” (2)

Willard points out the flaws of trying to live as Christ “on the spot”.  What he means by “on the spot” is that we cannot expect ourselves to respond as Christ would, when faced with a challenge that we haven’t prepared for.  By the grace of God we may be able to act as Christ did “on the spot” but Christ is not calling us to a life of “on the spot” situations, but rather a life that is fully devoted to communing with Him. We cannot simply live how Christ lived by trying to act like Him in the face of oppression or when confronting an enemy.

Willard gives the following example to illustrate:

“Think of certain young people who idolize an outstanding baseball player. They want nothing so much as to pitch or run or hit as well as their idol. So what do they do? When they are playing in a baseball game, they all try to behave exactly as their favorite baseball star does. The star is well known for sliding head first into bases, so the teenagers do too. The star holds his bat above his head, so the teenagers do too. These young people try anything and everything their idol does, hoping to be like him—they buy the type of shoes the star wears, the same glove he uses, the same bat.

Will they succeed in performing like the star, though? The star performer himself didn’t achieve his excellence by trying to behave a certain way only during the game. Instead, he chose an overall life of preparation of mind and body, pouring all his energies into that total preparation, to provide a foundation in the body’s automatic responses and strength for his conscious efforts during the game.” (3,4)

This also goes with our call to imitate Christ – It isn’t acting like him “on the spot” but disciplining ourselves to solitude, prayer, and meditation that will enable us to truly live as he lived. It is pivotal to view discipline as a means of grace and not as a means of self righteousness.

“…ironically, in our efforts to avoid the necessary pains of discipline, we miss the easy yoke and the light burden. We then fall into the rendering frustration of trying to do and be the Christian we know we ought to be without the necessary insight and strength that only discipline can provide.” (7)

So, in trying to act “on the spot” as Christ did, we will fail ingloriously and seem ridiculous to the watching world (which we have all seen in some form).  Christ’s commands to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, and to turn the other cheek don’t seem too far-fetched within the life of a disciplined disciple. There is hope for the overwhelmed and burdened Christian who can’t seem to live like Christ, and it is through a lifestyle of discipline that paves the way for daily Christ-likeness. To live as Christ lived is to not only live as he did “on the spot” but to live as he did all of his life. We cannot forget the life that Jesus lived outside of the scriptures – the life that is mentioned only briefly in the Gospels, where Jesus slipped away to be alone…


dustinelamBio: Henry David Thoreau once said, “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks – who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which [the] word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going “à la sainte terre”, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.” Currently trying to master the art of walking with my wife and son in Fullerton, CA.

Dustin Elam