I just finished reading The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. I have to say, when I began reading it and found that it was largely a collection of previously written articles, my first reaction was disappointment: “Nothing new here that I haven’t already read by Willard.” But I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the book very much.
There were many great take-aways from the book. However, one statement that was repeated throughout the book really stuck with me:
As I often point out to folks, today we are not only saved by grace, we are paralyzed by it. Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.
I can only imagine that a statement like that does not sit well with most Evangelicals. Willard often had to defend that statement, explaining that, yes, we are saved by grace, but becoming a disciple of Jesus requires effort and discipline. And because effort sounds a little too much like works, many churches simply avoid the issue of discipleship altogether. It doesn’t preach well. The result has been churches full of Christians, yet wanting in disciples. Paralysis!
Perhaps that quote has stuck with me because it aptly describes my own spiritual journey. Early on, my faith consisted primarily of trying to keep the rules. It was exhausting. Over time, all the teaching on grace began to sink in. I learned to relax, to get off the performance treadmill. But over the last five or so years, there has been a restlessness to my faith. There was still something missing. I am discovering that the missing piece is the disciplined life of a disciple. And it is not easy; nor is it something that I will just drift into. It requires effort. And that aspect of faith isn’t spoken of much in the church. It’s much easier to just stick with the subject of grace.
So is there such a thing as too much grace? How does Dallas Willard’s statement sit with you? How do we convey both the grace of God and the discipline it takes to be a follower of Jesus?