The life of the Christian is rooted in God’s promise for them, not their own works to impress God. Our joy is built on the security we have in the knowledge of God’s promise. Inasmuch as we know that God makes us a promise, and that God doesn’t break his promises, we have “practical” comfort in his will for us.
But what if most Christian teaching is actually stripping away security? Would it be better to be less comforted as Christians so that we can get more done – achieve more for Christ? Or does that mentality not only strip away comfort, but ultimately strip away our love for God and our faith in Christ’s work for us, achieving nothing more than pathetic rags of human glory?
Theology wasn’t created for the sake of nuance itself; it is for the Proclamation of God’s Promise. We say words about God to needy beggars, and those words point to God’s promises. In fact, those words are the verbal transmission of that promise. “God’s love is yours, in Christ. Jesus died for you. Your life is hidden in his life, death, and resurrection. It is secure. God says so.”
Words about God are best used to create an intricate picture that points more and more clearly to God’s promise, not an impossible maze that forces Christians to begrudgingly trust spiritual gurus pointing in all directions. That will only leave us exhausted. Incredibly exhausted. It’s probably why you feel like giving up right now.
(“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” – Jesus)
Sometimes things are complicated. But sometimes the purpose of introducing or highlighting complications is really just to communicate to people how little they understand. Sometimes we get nervous that they are so excited about grace, and we think to ourselves, “Wait, they are more enthusiastic than me, I’ve got to bring them down to my level. Ahem, that grace thing I was talking about, that comes with some conditions. Yep, I’m for real. Get out a pad of paper, this is gonna take a while.”
Comfort and rest in Christ is spiritual, and a profound testimony to a world addicted to self-justifying, anxiety-inducing, busy-ness. We are programmed to think that nervous effort is somehow more spiritual than simple, childlike love that sometimes doesn’t have a clear application beyond smiling at your neighbor with a no-strings-attached, “you don’t have to smile back if you don’t want to” kind of attitude.
But is your love Radical, Crazy, Game-Changing? Are you Manning up, Standing Firm, On Fire? We distrust simple acts of love, the acts that can’t be romanticized into a sensational testimony to the power of the human will. (Which makes me wonder, if radical hard work is truly the Christian’s goal, why does Paul call the Thessalonians to “make it your ambition to lead quiet lives.” Wait, what? You mean we don’t have to broadcast our radical effort to all of our friends? There’s goes the only motive for social media, and – for that matter – socializing.)
Nuance can’t be crammed down people’s throats. A good theologian can nuance you into a deeper love for Christ, which should feel more like you are being wooed/ pursued/ saved/ risen/ loved and less like you are being cut down to size. But finding out that something we once thought was for our good actually has strings attached often makes us say curse words.
Christ’s love is for you. He has set you free from the exhausting pursuit of securing love by the sweat of your own brow. Stand firm in that freedom, and don’t submit yourselves to any yoke of slavery, including the slavery of those who want you to take a second look at Christ’s blood shed for you and cause worry that it isn’t “of the Spirit”, or “taking into account all aspects of your life.” Paul was okay with reductionism: Christ and him crucified for you.
It’s yours. You are free. Enjoy.