January 9, 2008

The Hardest Thing in the World...

...is probably iron. Or titanium. Or calculus.

Or maybe not.

From our earliest Sunday School lessons, we're taught that to get to heaven, you have to ask Jesus into your heart. Finding chapter & verse for that is a little tough to do ("...confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord," Romans 10:9, comes close. I guess.), but it's something generally accepted, something no Christian is really going to dispute. You won't hear anyone advise a toddler that he's woefully misguided in believing it. We can pretty much all agree that asking Jesus into your heart, in other words asking him to be your boss, is where salvation begins.

The simplicity of it is astonishing: The key to immortality is simply to believe. We're dead and doomed until we do it. And while I'm not a fan of oversimplified Christianity-as-a-ticket-through-the-pearly-gates theology, belief in Christ is essential to Real Life. To be frank, the simplicity is necessary in dealing with kids, but becomes a big problem when dealing with adults. It's a big hangup. It is the hangup of all hangups. It's the sultan of snags, the colossus of clogs, the - okay, no more Babe Ruth analogies in my theological discourse.

"You mean to tell me that to live forever, all I have to do is believe Jesus was who he said he was?" It's all too simple. There's no way that's all there is to it. There are lots and lots of excuses for people to reject Christianity, and this is a big one. I've had to stop at this point countless times when trying to straighten this whole thing out in my head. It just can't be this easy. There has to be something I can do. There has to be some amount of money I have to donate, some number of souls I have to save, some vast and confusing code of conduct for me to follow. Right? There's no way all I have to do is just believe something.


Except, it isn't simple. It's the hardest thing in the world to do. Ever since Adam took a bite of a watermelon (I like to picture it as a very large watermelon and I think I'm allowed to) it's always been all about us. That's what sin is: It's putting ourselves in front of others. Ingrained from birth is the desire to serve ourselves. It's all about personal achievement and self-serving opportunity. We have to compare ourselves to others, and find some way to elevate us over them. This is where the simple-sounding confession becomes the hardest thing in the world: Inherent in believing that Jesus is who he said he is is the confession that we are not who he said he is. Following Christ begins when we stop following ourselves. That's the point at which God says, "Okay, it's not about you anymore. Now we're cool." It goes against countless generations of believing it is all about us.

It always comes back to pride and humility. This is why we find it so hard to apologize, to fess up for wrongdoing, to admit our own shortcoming. We simply cannot allow the flaws and chinks in our armor to show. The myth is, sadly, perpetuated even in the church. And the church and Christianity and all of this are simply not engines that can run on self.

(Don't get me wrong, Christianity isn't completely void of achievement. God built us to want to achieve things, I think. Otherwise, nothing would ever get done and none of use would ever move out of our parents' basements.)

The world finds Christianity so hard to buy because they think something is simple when it is anything but simple. It's actually really, really hard.

No comments: