WAY too busy for....
At my latest high school question/answer period I was asked two different questions that helped me explain Christianity more clearly than I probably would have on my own. One Muslim girl wanted to make the point that Christianity was a religion for lazy people. It didn't demand enough from them, she said, and she pointed to our lack of hundreds of rules for day to day life, dietary laws, strict social rules, etc. as proof. Another question was from a young man asking why there were so many denominations in Christianity. Wasn't that, he said, a sign that there was something wrong with it; some inherent flaw?
I opened my response with a discussion of irreducible minimums. In science, we often speak of the irreducible minimum to establish exactly what we are talking about. For instance, a cup of water can be minimized all the way down to one water molecule, but no further. If you remove one hydrogen atom or one oxygen molecule you no longer have water. Then I took that idea to Christianity. One of the real challenges is to take Christianity down to its irreducible minimum. We don't do that to make following Jesus easy, or because we have a propensity for laziness. We do that so we can truly understand what our faith is and what the Lord requires from us.
Of course, this exercise has consequences. It is not without its own controversies because it tends to toss dogmas out the window to land in the pile right on top of the traditions, preferences, pomp and ceremonies that had to be jettisoned in the search for the pure, the simple, the irreducible minimum. Nobody likes that, but it is a necessary part of the journey. A lot of people will lose their power, their place and even their meaning along the way and we can't expect that to happen quietly. But what it leaves us with is not minimal at all -- but very substantial.
I used First Corinthians 13 as an example (while referencing Galatians 5 and Ephesians 4 as other lists that could be used as a set of minimums) where Paul says only three things remain: faith, hope and love. Then I asked the question this way: "This obviously makes Christianity much simpler, but does it make it easier? Does this make it a religion for lazy people?" Some said yes, others said no, so I went on to explain how this central molecule of Christianity keeps us so busy.
If I love a person I cannot misuse their body for my sexual pleasure, nor can I stand by while they are being harmed, or while they go hungry, or when injustice breaks their lives. I have to spend my life in service to every person I have the opportunity to meet. My faith requires me to change the way I look at the possessions I am renting from God. My hope allows me to let loose of them because I know something better is coming. My love makes me actively seek for ways to use what I have -- goods, money, influence, words, gestures, time -- to bring light and peace into the lives of all around me. I am never given a day off from God or the requirement to show my faith in Christ by my faith, hope and love. And if there is every a question on how best to show my faith or illustrate my hope, I must use love as the trump card, the highest referree of my conduct.
That makes me way too busy to go about policing dogmas, traditions, preferences, dietary laws, song selections, or the thousand things that have split the church since time immemorial. I don't have time to carve out a fiefdom and declare myself the arbitrator of what is acceptable to God. I have way too much to do. I can't take time away from faith, hope and love to do anything else in Christ's name --- even miracles and many might works, as in Matthew 7. I am behind the curve as long as more people are born in the hospital than are born in Christ, and more are being buried in the ground than are being buried in baptism. After I have converted everyone in the Metro Detroit area I will still not have the right to add any of my molecules to the minimum established by Christ. For that minimum does not release me from duty or make my path easy. It consumes me and I have time for nothing else.