I recently read about a major Christian university that commissioned a task force to, among other things, “provide clarity regarding the (school’s) identity as an evangelical Christian university” and to establish “a common understanding regarding behavioral expectations for fulfilling roles and responsibilities in light of university values.” My response was whoa, is it really that complicated? What happened to the days when you were a Christian school, you simply followed Biblical standards.
Have you ever either gone to a Christian Bookstore or searched Christian books online? It is amazing what you can find. There are books on how to measure church health, how to facilitate church growth, how to pray, how to worship, how to be relevant, and how to appeal to young people. There are books on how to be still, how to find yourself, how to lose yourself, how to be a follower, a leader, how to raise perfect kids, and countless volumes on how to have the ideal Christian marriage. After reading these, one’s head can be spinning with facts, figures, “how to’s”, and loads of guilt for not being the “Christian” exemplified in the books.
But before you buy countless books (for the record, I love books and they are helpful in my walk with God), I want to remind you that Christianity is simple. Really simple. It is about a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. But somewhere along the way, we have turned something that is so beautiful, and so simple, into something complicated.
It is simple. It is just hard. Let me explain.
Jesus spoke to the common man. He chose common men to spread the gospel through the world. And the message was simple. In fact, Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV).
No doubt there are things that are deep, mature, and deserve in-depth pondering and consideration. But the core tenets of Christianity are simple. Salvation, worship, the church, and daily living can be understood by even those of us who who don’t have a string of initials at the end of our name.
Jesus taught in terms that humans could understand. He used expressions and parables about farms, fishing and the everyday life of that time period. Jesus could have spoken in terms we have no chance of understanding, yet He chose to give us the Gospel in simple, easy to understand terms.
Here is the gospel in the one-minute version. We are sinners and deserve to die a sinner’s death, forever to live apart from God. Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life, did not deserve to die, yet He chose to take our place in death. All we have to do is to accept that His death covers all of our sin and accept this perfect gift. That’s it. Sometimes its simplicity is what makes people pause wondering if that is all there is to a relationship with God and eternal life.
Look at 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”
Becoming a Christian is not a matter or accepting certain improbable factual assertions, but rather a matter of trusting in God and accepting his gift of salvation. It does not need to be dissected, or each word parsed, or compared to social issues, or aligned with exhaustive historical research, or studied in the context of the different denominations or compared to other religions.
At its core, then, being a Christian is essentially trusting in a God who has revealed himself in history, who has begun, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, to redeem the world and transform it into his kingdom, who invites us into to an intimate relationship with him, who loves us and wants us to become all that we were created and meant to be, who forgives us when we fall short of that mark, and who invites us to play a significant role in moving forward His plan for the world.
Simple. But hard.