I was sitting in a well-known chain restaurant the other day (won’t say the name, but I was seated not far from the fireplace where people play checkers while sitting in rocking chairs) waiting for one of my stellar youth leaders to show up for a one-on-one breakfast meeting we had planned. While I sat there, I eavesdropped on the conversation at the next table over. It was between a waitress and a woman seated at that table who was in the process of ordering her breakfast. It didn’t take long to notice a pattern in her order…
“I’d like 2 eggs fried, but instead of the whole eggs, I just want egg whites.”
“For my sides, instead of the apples and grits can I have double grits?”
“And I definitely want the biscuits, but instead of all biscuits can I have like half of the basket be wheat toast with butter?”
You see it too don’t you? Its the art of the substitute. Its the “I want this instead of that.” Its the “your idea is good, but my idea is better.” Burger King made a national campaign out of it with “Have It Your Way.” Its substituting and it can creep in to our walk with Christ if we’re not careful.
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must take up his cross and follow me.” But we’d like to substitute “anyone” and put in “people like me”. We’d like to substitute “must” with “could possibly”. We’d rather have “think about” than “take up” and we’d rather substitute “cross” with “latte”.
We can trace substituting back to the garden of Eden. God said “Here’s the menu. Eat any fruit you want. Just not that one.” And we humans said, “Okay, but instead of all the fruit, can we have just that one?” And here we are today, still swapping out what God said for what we’d rather have.
God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength….and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Us: “Hmmm…..let’s see. Instead of that can I just attend a church service once in a while and do what I want? Besides, that one neighbor is…well…you know.”
God: “Love one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, bear with one another…”
Us: “Well, that sounds nice, but you know who really needs to hear this? And besides, I’M right. They’re wrong.”
God: “Go and make disciples.”
Us: “Change ‘disciples’ to ‘cake” and you’ve got a deal.”
What other substitutions do you commonly see among those who follow Jesus?