Put five monkeys in a cage. Put a ladder in the cage with a bunch of bananas at the top. As soon as one monkey starts to climb the ladder, spray cold water on all the monkeys. When another tries to climb, spray cold water on all the monkeys again. Soon, no monkey will attempt to climb the ladder.
Now, remove one monkey and put a new monkey in the cage. The new monkey will see the bananas and try to climb the ladder. Not wanting to be sprayed with cold water again, the other monkeys will quickly pull him down. Remove a second monkey and put a new monkey in the cage. Again, the new monkey will see the bananas and try to climb the ladder. Not wanting to be sprayed with cold water, the other monkeys will quickly pull him down.
Repeat this process until all five original monkeys are gone, and five new monkeys are in the cage. None will try to climb the ladder, and none will understand why. Now, remove all five monkeys and put a brand new monkey in the cage. The monkey will quickly climb the ladder and eat the bananas. Don’t spray any cold water. Put the five original monkeys back in the cage with the one brand new monkey who has tasted the delicious bananas. Replenish the bananas.
The brand new monkey will again climb up the ladder. Despite the efforts of the older monkeys to hold him down, the brand new monkey has tasted the bananas, he will strive again until he succeeds. When he succeeds, the other five monkeys will realize that bananas are worth the climb, and worth the risk of some cold water. They, too, will climb the ladder and enjoy the delicious bananas.
And so it is with grace. God’s grace is attractive, we want grace but many of us have spent years being sprayed by the cold waters of performance. Robert McGhee calls it Satan’s big lie:
My performance + The opinions of others = My value.
Corporate America is built around this idea. If you perform you advance. If you don’t you’re fired. This is so ingrained in us that God’s grace catches us by surprise. At the core of one’s value as an athlete is this idea: If I perform I’ll keep my position. If not, I’m fired.
We are in a performance-driven society. And when we come face to face with the grace of God, we’re like the proverbial monkeys who’ve been sprayed with water. Thoughts like, “you mean I just get something for free?” go through our minds. “It’s too good to be true.” “Nothing good is free.” “Don’t I have to do something to earn God’s favor?”
Romans 8 says no. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Let that sink in…and enjoy the banana. If you are in Christ Jesus, you’re free.