I remember learning in college about Ivan Pavlov's dogs. Pavlov conditioned the dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. He did so by sounding a bell when he presented food to them. Eventually, the dogs would salivate when the bell would ring, even though there was no food.
I watched as my kids, along with five others, stood at the bus stop. When the first bus came, the four older kids moved to one section of the sidewalk, while the younger four moved to another. When the bus stopped, and the driver opened the door, the four older kids immediately formed a line and entered the bus. The same thing happened when the second bus came for the younger kids.
They've learned when they see the first bus to separate themselves. They've also learned to line up and walk as soon as the doors open. When they arrive at school, they will change classes at the sound of a bell. They've been trained and conditioned. They only deviate if they're told to.
When I go to church, I follow the program. Stand to sing, sit during announcements, greet those around me at the appropriate time, sit and listen during the sermon, pass the offering plate, stand to sing again, then leave. Maybe I've been trained and conditioned. But this past Sunday, the conditioning weighed heavy. I felt as though Holy Spirit was not free to move in me, and I wondered if others felt the same.
The message was grace and redemption. The solo at the end of the service was Redeemed, a song by Big Daddy Weave. If you're familiar with that song, you know how powerful the message of grace is in it. The lyrics could be my own story. I wanted to stand and shout, Yes! This is grace! This is the freedom Jesus died to give us! Instead, I sat still with a single tear running down my cheek. I don't claim to know the hearts of anyone else there, but the mood in the building seemed almost apathetic.
Have we been so conditioned that we sit still and quiet as Grace is proclaimed? Are we so conditioned to our Sunday morning routine, to our daily schedules that we don't even consider allowing Holy Spirit to move and guide us? If Christians don't get excited about Grace, and don't allow Him to cause us to deviate from our conditioning, why would anyone else?