The biggest issue I hear when I tell people I’m a Christian is “Isn’t it terribly complicated? I mean, there’s all those things you can’t do.”
The hardest thing about my Faith in my experience is explaining how simple it actually is. Most people seem to think Christianity is either irrelevant – which is ok because they have a clear idea of what they’re rejecting – or similar to the Gordian Knot in it’s complexity.
In point of fact, Christianity is a very simple system. It goes something like this:
- God is a just God.
- He gave Adam one “don’t” instruction and told him the consequences of breaking it.
- Adam broke it.
- Rather than wipe out all His creation and start over, God chose to take His own punishment on behalf of Adam’s descendants.
- He gives us the choice to accept His gift or reject it.
- Acceptance makes us right with Him for eternity
- Rejection means we face His judgement.
The issue most people today have is trying to deal with the thought that a Loving God will send people to Hell.
Mostly this is avoided by simply not believing in Hell. It makes it easy because people stop seeing consequences to their actions. The death penalty is no longer an effective deterrent to criminals in part because they have no concept of what lies beyond. Consider how in the USA the number of mass shootings end with suicide by the gunman. There’s no fear of an eternal consequence for their actions.
William Booth spoke of the
consequences we face today at the turn of the 19th Century.
He was largely dismissed at the time as people couldn’t imagine a world where his predictions could happen.
Within 2 decades the First World War broke out and Western society changed forever. Just 21 years later in 1939 the Second World War took out the second consecutive generation of young men on a global scale and the change was effectively complete. By the late 1950s and early 60s the concept of Hell was all but dropped by most preachers. Many wouldn’t touch it because of the experiences so many had had during the War, either by bombings or on the battlefields of Europe and the Far East. Korea and Vietnam didn’t help, and the concept of “Hell on Earth” became popular and having been through it, Heaven would surely be the reward for everyone.
Now Christianity is straightforward, but not that simple.
Christianity is such a straightforward offer that it requires special talent to misunderstand it. Unfortunately, there is much of this talent available.
God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He is undoubtedly a God of order. You can’t look at the way the planets rotate or how perfectly a honey-bee is able to draw the nectar from a flower and truly doubt the perfection of His design. Such design can only be achieved through order.
Yet somehow Christianity has been relegated to a “get out of Hell free” card in some transcendental monopoly game. So often there is little, if any, sign of Power in Faith. I’m not talking about political power, but real life changing power as the Disciples showed.
Over the last 2000 years there have been times of growth and times of stagnation in the Christian Faith. Every time of growth has corresponded with a return by a significant group to the simple, basic Truths of the Faith that have been central since Jesus’s time.
Capitec, a small bank in South Africa, advertises with the tag-line “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.” It’s true. The theory is sound. The simpler things are, the better they work.
Compare the simplicity of Christianity with the legalism of Islam. Eat anything because it’s what comes out of our mouth that shows us to be clean or unclean. Pray without ceasing, facing any direction you want and don’t worry if you didn’t bathe first – just talk to Me. Don’t rely on your own efforts to be “good enough” to get to Heaven, just rely on Jesus to be good enough and let Him bring you in.
I have several friends who are Muslim. We don’t often discuss religion as with some it has caused offence in the past. These days I lean more to living Christianity around them and let them ask why I’m doing what I do. It’s difficult, but I’ve always struggled with the people I’m closest to in terms of “evangelising”. I’m not a natural evangelist. On the few occasions we have spoken the differences between our faiths is stark. During Ramadan I spoke to one friend about fasting. She asked how fasting differed for Christians from the Muslim fast. I explained that when I fast I fast for a few days at a time. During that time I will eat nothing and drink only water and tea. She asked me what time each day I stopped. I explained that I didn’t. Fasting is total abstinence from food 24 hours a day while I fast.
She nearly fell off her chair. Not being able to eat at sundown was beyond her comprehension. She asked how long I have to fast for, what the “requirements” were. Again, it was obvious that my response was a surprise. I know people who have fasted for three weeks or more in that way, and some who fast just a day or two.
The freedom from a legalistic requirement on how and when to fast or pray is integral to the concept of Relationship in Christianity. If Alexander Graham Bell had been around in First Century Jerusalem, I’m 100% certain Jesus would have likened prayer to a personal call to God from His children – and He was just waiting for it to ring. The Bible was the call to us, kind of like an answerphone message, begging us to call Him back.
My mum tends to phone me around 8:30pm most nights. If I can’t answer for some reason she leaves a message and if its not too late I call her back. But I can call her or vice-versa at any time during the day. Imagine if I could only call or receive a call at a specific time from a phone plugged in to a particular socket. That wouldn’t be relationship, it would be ritual.
Jesus is all about relationship. His purpose was to restore Relationship with the Father by His sacrifice. The breaking of the legalistic requirements of the Law by completing it was the method. The point of the Law was to show mankind that we could not make it to God ourselves, but rather to point to Him as the one we needed to receive salvation. Any religion that then takes us back to following a set of rules instead of the freedom of Grace confuses and complicates our existence.
There are rituals in Christianity. The most obvious is Communion, but while it is important, the point is not transubstantiation of the sacraments, but rather the symbolic being part of Jesus and Him being part of us. The ritual isn’t supposed to replace the relationship, but remind us of the reason – Relationship.
Simple, clear and plain.
It’s really not that complicated.