I’ve been working up to writing this post for a couple of weeks now. I’ve dreaded this one because in my mind it’s fraught with hazards of misunderstanding and the potential for failure to say what I really want to express. It runs the risk of being just another platitude or lacking in substance. And like it or not, in the end it’s really just an expression of my thoughts even though I struggle to base it on Biblical writings. But here goes.
At heart, I’m a simple man. I prefer things pretty straightforward, most of the time. It frustrates me when people try to complicate things unnecessarily, especially if done to make themselves look impressive or important (the main reason for my disgust with politics). So when I look at the current landscape of denominational Christianity with its myriad expressions of belief and worship practices, I’m heartbroken and frustrated. We talk endlessly of the need for unity, but define it in terms of our own belief about what constitutes ‘true’ Christianity as expressed in our creeds, doctrines and statements of belief. We exclude anyone who doesn’t subscribe to our “truth”.
I’m not a theologian, have never attended a seminary or held any type of pastoral or ministerial position. I’m simply a believer with a a desire for deeper relationship with God and a thirst for greater knowledge of His word who has spent most of my life trying to gain both. We complicate the Bible, faith, obedience, salvation and God. Human beings have spent thousands of years struggling to interpret the meaning of scripture and codifying them into worship practices, theologies, doctrines and laws in order to define the “correct” interpretation of what God expects from us. Most tend to be very elaborate, rigid, rule-based formulas we must follow perfectly to please God, or else are couched in a “free ticket to ride” that makes no demand for meaningful change in our lives. Both are incorrect, and we may eventually throw up our hands and decide God is unknowable and the Bible is too complex to tell us who He really is.
I believe God’s expectations of us are really simple. I’ve said for some time now that God really only asks one question: “Do you trust me?”. In Matthew 18:3,4 Jesus told his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Children have faith in those they trust. It’s an unconditional trust, not ‘blind’ but rather with an expectation the one they trust will love and protect them. When that expectation is met, children respond to it, not out of fear but love. They love because they trust, and they trust because they love. And they obey out of a desire to please the one they love.
That’s what God wants from us. Jesus was asked by a lawyer, an expert in the Mosaic law, “What is the greatest commandment?”. Of all the complex rules and regulations which comprised the law, this man wanted to know the one law that summed up everything else, the ONE unbreakable rule. Jesus responded by quoting what is known as the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mt 22:37–40). What Jesus was telling him, and us, is what God desires above all is US, all of us, completely. All the rest of Scripture, all of what we call God’s ‘commands’, his expectations of us, flows out of this relationship. We obey God’s commands because we love and trust him, and our love prompts us to please Him through obedience.
We concern ourselves with finding the right ‘way’ to God. We seek every way but the one that God has already given. We read the Bible with the intention of finding verses to support our predetermined beliefs rather than to humbly learn what God desires from us. I’ve been accused of having a “black and white” view of God and the Bible, and I would unashamedly agree. God’s avenue and condition for relationship and the salvation/adoption that goes with it is straightforward. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. “(John 14:6).
God sent his son Jesus to earth to reestablish the broken relationship between God and his creation (that’s us) and to give us a living picture of Himself. Through that horrible death by crucifixion, the way was established for us to have the relationship God desires with us. But it comes at a price-our willingness to trust Him enough to surrender ourselves completely to Him. To answer the question, “Do you trust Me?” with an unequivocal “Yes!”, no matter your circumstance or situation. To give up your “rights”, especially the right to yourself. To admit life under your control is hopelessly broken and to scrape up those pieces, bring them to Jesus and place them in His scarred hands.
God doesn’t want you to think you need to be all sparkly clean and pretty before you can come to Him. You don’t have to be ‘perfect’; that’s His job. Please don’t think you’re not ‘good enough’; no one ever is. But you are God’s creation and now he wants his own back, and he invites you to come home. It’s as simple as that.