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In Greek mythology, there was a treacherous king named Sisyphus. He was so irritating to the gods that they banished him to hell, but he was such a wily character that he escaped. Nevertheless, his trickery finally caught up with him and he was condemned to an eternity of rolling a huge boulder to the top of a hill. Then, every time Sisyphus arrived with his rock at the top of the hill, it would roll back down to the bottom. Sisyphus, according to the Greeks, is still struggling with that stone today.

In issues of faith, many of us are Sisyphean. We are always pushing that rock up the hill, only to see it slip away just as we arrive at a resting place. Proof of our effort is betrayed by words like: “I have got to do better … I must try harder… I need to give more … I should pray longer … I’m not good enough … I ought to read the Bible more often.”

Faith becomes a terribly heavy burden, and like Sisyphus, with his shoulder eternally shoved against the stone, or like the perpetual hamster on a never ending exercise wheel, we turn liberating grace into a repressive pseudo-holiness that is nothing short of a deathtrap. This concept is completely foreign to the spirituality of Jesus.

We think that our spiritual journey and growth depends upon all that we can do. Many of us live — or exist rather, as we haven’t learned to really live — with the old Protestant work ethic hanging around our necks like a yoke. Boiled down to a bumper sticker mantra we think: “If it’s going to be, then it’s up to me.” That’s nothing short of sacrilege.

Being a follower of Christ is not about being an adherent to one of the world’s great religions. God save us from enduring any more of that. No, being a follower of Christ is the discipline of being still, and learning to trust the way that leads to life.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at ronniemcbrayer.net.

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