“… Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we are still fighting among ourselves today. This green field right here, painted red … Listen to their souls, men. I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family. You listen, and you take a lesson from the dead …” — Coach Boone, Remember the Titans
Matthew 28:16-20 (esp. 20)
Antoine St. d’Exupery said, “If anything at all, perfection is achieved not when there is no longer anything left to add, but when there is nothing left to strip away.”
So goes much thinking in business: do one thing and do it well. In education, teachers find that focusing on one concept a day benefits students. The NFL’s current rage is the Tampa Two defense because of its simplicity.
Simple works. Simple allows us to understand. Thus, some of us find simplicity a great help in approaching scripture. Is its message one that is so simple? Does it come down to God’s love and reconciliation?
Many of us cling to these texts. We believe in them we can find the truth about God and who we are and what life’s about. But what is that message?
Jesus said to make disciples of all nations. He said to teach them all that he commanded.
What, then, did he command them? What did he teach?
I don’t know about dispensational doctrine, reformed theology, systematics or antinomianism. What it means to be Anabaptist, paleo-orthodox, Arminian or restorationist is lost on me. Thomism? Four- versus five-point Calvinism? Free will versus predestination? Ecumenical versus Emergent? These have some value, but will we discuss these endlessly without thinking long and deeply about what Jesus said?
What he said looks pretty simple. He said the work of God is to believe in the one God sent. He said to be a student of his, you have to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow him. He said the greatest commandment was to love God with everything in us. He said the second was like it, and that was to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
All the scripture that came before, he said, hung on these two ideas: love God and love others, even enemies. He said God does this. He did it. And his students Peter, John, James and Paul all emphasized these ideas of forgiveness, grace and reconciliation.
Could it be so simple? Love and believe? Follow him? We can and will no doubt spend a great deal of time, maybe too much, debating particulars and parsing words. But this is what Jesus said. This represents the teaching of Jesus, and this is what he tells us to teach others.
When you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, what is the focus of Jesus’ words?
What did Jesus communicate about himself?
What did Jesus communicate about God? How complex was it?
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