For those of us who have played tennis, we know the direct meaning of that phrase. The ball has been struck and it is now over the net and it has landed fair and “in”. The indirect one may be that we can choose to hit it or not. If we are playing doubles there may be a choice to yeild the opportunity. If we are talking about our faith we can’t do a hand-off. It is not a shared sport. God may “serve” again and again. We may let it go, thinking He will tire. He does not.
Mathew, Mark and Luke all share the invitation: “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself”. It is an invitation simply because of the word “if”. The lord has proposed no “rules of the game” at this point. He has simply served the ball. It is in our court. Having made the choice to accept the invitation, we must do what He says without hesitation. If we do hesitate, it is because we love someone, something else in competition with Him. Quite possibly it is ourselves or the world.
Humanism (love of self among other things) allows us many Christian thoughts and precepts. It is engaging because it allows us to believe we are in control or that we should be. It may have marvelous motives; we love the world, we love others, we love nature and all creation. Surely, that cannot be a bad thing – nor is it, as far as it goes, but it calls not at all for surrender of our “self”. While we may love to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps”; be a self -made man, a pillar of strength, we are but clay – fashioned by God alone, to succeed or fail at His will. We may debate the issue of “freedom of choice” as it affects our behavior after the ball has been struck, and the invitation to return it; there is no more important choice that can be made in that answer to God’s “IF” with the knowledge that it was “good”.
Salvation is no game.