Simplistic or Nuanced?

I‘ve been humbled over the last couple years as I’ve discovered that I had a very anemic understanding of the Gospel.  Of course that was preceded by a season in which I discovered that I had foolishly made “church” and the “Kingdom of God” synonymous.  Consequently, I have a desire to not only help other people see the same light, but I want to avoid repeating the error of my ways (just with different specifics).

The thought came to me: we Christians tend to be overly simplistic.  If you’re a zealous conservative (like I’ve been), then faith can be all-too-easily reduced to saying the sinner’s prayer and agreeing to the appropriate statement of faith.  In the same vein, Christian maturity is expressed in church attendance and tithing.  Of course, there is higher ground available (a spot on the board?) for those who are willing to give to missions and head up a ministry department.  This is just what good Christians do.

Of course, so many of us can giddily sigh a deep sigh of relief that we have seen the light, and no longer embrace such dim, ignorant ideas.  So many have emigrated from that land of oppressive “religion” and now romp around in the green, fluffy fields of “relationship.”  Here in Relationship Land, we scoff at words like commitment and sacrifice – to think we once thought those things mattered to God!  Hey, we’re not going to hell if we drink a margarita (or seven), right?  And God knows that if we dragged ourselves out of bed to go to church on Sunday that it’d only be reli…hang on a minute – I AM the church!

In essence, we’ve swapped one simplistic mindset for another when in fact the Gospel of Jesus Christ is much more nuanced than that.  We’ve almost disdainfully abandoned the simplistic legalism of our past, and at the same time we’re smugly promoting a simplistic carnality that’s camouflaged with words like “kingdom” and “relationship.”  Let’s stop and consider that while the Gospel is truly – and thankfully – simple enough for a child to embrace, the proof of its divine nature is that it is also a reality so rich and complex that our world’s greatest minds could spend an eternity studying it.  As Tom Wright said so directly: “Being a Christian means learning to think harder.”  Take time to savor and appreciate the nuance of the Gospel, rather than gulping down mass quantities of simplistic legalism/carnality.

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