When some peace-loving dude “humbly” tells a believer that all religions are basically the same, the believer typically responds with wet pants. That claim scares many of us. It scares us for a couple of reasons. One, we don’t know all religions. This dude seems to have studied even Zoroastrianism. Secondly, this guy seems pretty sure of himself and he also seems like he really loves peace. I don’t want to be seen as some sort of arrogant, war-mongering, and hate-filled meanie pants.
So what do I do?
So many of the lessons we learn and the tasks we attempt in life are seemingly simple. Losing weight is just a matter of burning more calories than we consume. Being punctual simply requires us to leave a bit earlier. Christianity is just being like Jesus. If the incongruity in these statements hasn’t become clear yet, let me try these examples: All it takes to be a tightrope walker is to stroll a length of wire and all it takes to win a football game is to push an oblong object across a line more times than the opposition. Simple, right?
Yes, the goal in all these examples is simple, at least as stated. But this is a false simplicity, one that fails to acknowledge the underlying complexities, obstacles, challenges, motivations, and personalities that are in play. The formula for losing weight may be simple but doing so can be tremendously difficult. And “live like Jesus” is an easy enough explanation of Christianity, too, but it is no easy mission.
To label something in “simple” terms often leads people to believe that doing it is easy, which is just a set-up for disappointment, frustration, and even despair.
Download Knowing the Bible: Mark, a 12-week study guide by Dane Ortlund free from Crossway. Here’s a promo video featuring Dr. Ortlund to help you get a sense of the series:
Each study guide contains:
- Reflection Questions designed to help you engage the text at a deeper level
- Gospel Glimpses highlighting the gospel of grace throughout the book
- Whole-Bible Connections showing how a passage connects to the Bible’s overarching story of redemption culminating in Christ
- Theological Soundings identifying how historic orthodox doctrines are taught or reinforced throughout Scripture
I just recently picked up the Romans study by Jared Wilson at TGC; I’m looking forward to going through this and Mark soon.
HT: Justin Taylor
Our default mode – in and out of the church – seems to be defensiveness. I know mine is. Nothing is more natural when we feel threatened by a criticism than to divert, distract, and downplay. Its as instinctive as flinching when a punch is coming. In my experience, a heart of repentance is something I have to work at. I have to say things like, “wait a minute. Think this through. Why does this criticism hurt you the way it does? Remember your identity is in Christ. Remember you’re identity is not at stake. Relax! Is there something you can learn here?” Its a counter-intuitive feeling, like learning to use a muscle we didn’t know we had for the first time. Or better: learning to relax a muscle for the first time that we’ve always kept tight. Its a kind of paradox: an effort at relaxing, a striving to cease striving, a struggle to give up.