We’ve made it too complicated. Like the Pharisees of old who mired Judaism in legalism and made it discouragingly unattainable for the common people, we’ve complicated Christian faith and buried the basics.
Our new covenant regulations, dressed up as “principles,” build a deep bog from which we struggle to extricate ourselves.
It’s honorable to want to be a “Christian husband or wife” a “Christian father or mother” and a “Christian worker.” But somehow in the process of defining these ideals, we often sideline Christ Himself. We define appropriate (and inappropriate) behavior and preach the subtle secrets to successful living. We dissect the biblical text, finding (or creating) additional layers of meaning, and packaging the principles in neat, crisp, linear points that do little (usually) to redirect our focus to Christ, the Living Word.
The term “Christian” subtly changes form and meaning. Rather than alluding to someone who follows Christ, it becomes an adjective to describe our attitudes or behavior. Put simply, we extol Christian ethics with barely a reference to following Christ. And in doing so, we build burdensome systems.
At each gathering (small groups, mid-size groups, celebration groups) we receive another set of principles to guide our lives. The net effect is a religious structure, not a life of relational faith. We have more rules and guidelines than we can remember or implement.
When Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, the plan was simple. He did not open up a rabbinical school for scholars. He invited His followers to tag along with Him, to walk with Him, watch Him, learn His voice, depend on Him, imitate Him, and become like Him.
By contrast, we define discipleship in all sorts of ways except the above. We don’t “tag along with Him” but read about Him. We don’t train our ears to hear His voice but listen more to the religious pundits around us. We don’t depend on Him but speak highly about Him. We don’t imitate Him but incorporate Him into our Western culture.
We underestimate the powerful simplicity of being with Christ and knowing Christ. We assume that mature faith means extensive Bible knowledge, strong financial giving, and decent living. Perhaps those who listen to Christ and simply yield every moment to Him have managed to clean off the barnacles. We will soar with such simplicity.
Take two minutes right now to sit at His feet, and repeat it often over the next few days.
In HOPE —
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You can find back issues of “In HOPE” (2005-2008) at http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/.
David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. “In HOPE”, however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. “In HOPE” has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.
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