Not So Simple
Life is complicated. We want it to be simple, but it just isn’t.
Some of us try boil life down to some basic essence, but it doesn’t work. It may make life temporarily easier to digest, but the complexity never changes. We could tell a baby when they’re born that life is simple, that all they have to do is keep breathing… and we’d be right and wrong at the same time.
We want the same thing for Christianity. We want the Bible and the Gospel, even Jesus, to be simple and straightforward. Easy.
But they aren’t. And it’s time we quit trying to tell ourselves they are.
I’ve heard hundreds of sermons about how simple the Gospel is, and about how people over-think and over-analyze God and the Bible. And at some point, I’d shake my head every time I’d hear the statement. Were these people in the same fight I was? Reading the same book? Talking to the same people? Struggling with the same doubts? Apparently not.
The truth is, even now, I struggle with concepts in the Bible and how they fit into my everyday life. I know there are simple ways to present the gospel as a starting point. But staying there and refusing the maturation and progress that challenges to and from scripture facilitates, is like telling a first grader how easy math is while teaching them to add two and two on their fingers. Maybe that basic, foundational principle of math (addition) is easy, but that child has no idea how the other math principles will complicate themselves, and how math teaches people about life both with and without numbers.
Like two and two, there is an element to Christianity that is fundamental and basic. Namely, we sinned, we should die, he died, we can live. Sounds simple enough.
Until someone starts asking why’s and how’s. Why did Adam and Eve sin? Why do we sin? Did God tempt us? Wasn’t their sinning all a part of his plan? What kind of God would do that? How much control does God have anyway? Couldn’t He have just forgiven them?
And why death: to Adam, to Sodom and Gomorrah, and to seemingly innocent people who weren’t his “chosen?” Why a chosen people at all, doesn’t He love everybody? Why’s He choosing sides? What’s this thing about the Bible promoting slavery and stoning kids as punishment along with people caught in adultery? Why do we celebrate Goliath’s death? Didn’t God love Goliath too? Why, or why not? Why Jesus? Why to a virgin? Why is Jesus outside the church most his ministry? Why is he fighting the established religion? Why did He die? Why does it matter how he died? How could he be raised? Was it a trick? Why didn’t He show himself to everyone instead of a few? Why does He need to “come back,” wasn’t He here already? Didn’t He say “it’s finished?” What’s finished? If he did raise, why not just let everyone know who He was, what He’d done, so they could love Him and we could all live happily ever after? Why Satan? What the heck is the rapture, and again… isn’t God in control? Does that mean He’s the cause of everything that’s ever happened? Am I a robot? What’s pre-destination? And on and on…
|We can start,first, with being honest with each other about our own doubts and fears.
We can initiate some of these difficult conversations instead of always reacting to them.
We can encourage the expressing of ideas and principles, no matter how wrong or right they are. Because they are the very discussions that can lead to quality discussion about God’s truth.
In fact, let’s just face it. Jesus was complicated, often difficult to understand. Jesus challenged his disciples continually, speaking in parables and riddles (at least in their eyes) about who He was, this Kingdom of God, and so on. Jesus confused the religious groups of the day. Jesus was far from simple.
There is a reason Paul had to write letters to the churches. They had issues.
What is my point?
I suppose my point here is, we can’t settle for simple. We as Christian must be about pushing ourselves and each other, even intellectually. Jesus said we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yes, we should serve the oppressed, needy and poor, and we should exhibit God’s care and love to everyone we know. But that love can also be extended through an intellectual avenue to address a sort of mental poverty that we should be ready to address almost as readily as we are ready to address physical poverty.
We must challenge and wrestle with the scriptures as they reveal themselves to our generation. We can’t run from difficult topics and conversations in the name of “keeping it simple.” Sometimes, complication thrusts itself upon us whether we like it or not. And our lack of preparedness to defend the gospel make unprepared soil for the gospel seeds to take root in. In a world so full of truth seekers, and so full of pseudo-truths to choose from, we must be ready to engage in conversation true seekers are having on and in platforms where they hold court.
We can start,first, with being honest with each other about our own doubts and fears. We can initiate some of these difficult conversations instead of always reacting to them. We can encourage the expressing of ideas and principles, no matter how wrong or right they are. Because they are the very discussions that can lead to quality discussion about God’s truth.
Look at Jesus. He’s both able to save a Samaritan woman by a well, and to confound Nicodemus, a scholarly Pharisee. Jesus was able to converse with people on whatever intellectual level they made available to him.
We can do the same. And it begins with dispelling this idea of gospel simplicity as a sort of home base and encouraging a forum of ideas where God can change hearts through the tension of our doubts, challenges and fears.
Question of the Day?
Do you think the Gospel is simple? Do you feel that engaging in “more difficult” conversations is a waste of time?
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