What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Minimalism is a term often associated with the arts and humanities. It can also be a term used to describe a lack of decoration or adornment in design. One notes that minimalism features everywhere today, from webpage design to people’s desire to live in tiny houses. Despite sounding like a paradox, I suppose one can make the case that minimalism is the ultimate form of refinement. Even Leonardo DaVinci allegedly proclaimed that simplicity is the art of sophistication.   

Since minimalism appears to be beloved, why is it so difficult to share the simple Gospel to a postmodern world? What could be more straightforward than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul distilled it to three topics about Christ, even though each of those topics can fill volumes of their own accord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.1ff). Yes, the Gospel, at its core, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is contingent on symbolically reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-6). Indeed, the salvation plan is so simple that kids sing a song detailing those steps to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  

Yet, when it comes to religion, complex human emotion appears to trump Divine simplicity. Ask Naaman. When told how to cure his leprosy, Naaman balked. The prophet told him to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River to cleanse his leprosy. Naaman stormed off. 

“Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (2 Kings 5.11-12 NASB1995) 

Luckily, Naaman’s wise servants were not turned away by simplicity. They reminded their master he would do any great thing to cure his leprosy. So, why not just wash? (2 Kings 5.13) Similarly, I do not think that telling people to be immersed so that they can wash away sins and call on the Lord’s name (Acts 22.16) is a matter of complexity. It is simple. The stumbling block for those unwilling to obey is typically prejudices and fears. They think another way is better. Perhaps, this other way was taught to them by a dear, departed loved one. They do not want to “condemn” their relative by obeying the Gospel.  

However, obeying the Gospel is not an act of judgment. In rendering obedience, I am demonstrating a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). We allow God to take care of the implications and trust, like Abram, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18.25 NASB1995). No doubt, if that loved one who taught us something differently had the opportunity to be preached the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, then they would have obeyed too.  

If time permitted, I could expound upon other areas in which human emotion overly complicates the minimalism of God’s Divine plan for items such as worship. Yet, as with the virtue I am extolling, minimalism, it is best to keep this focused and concise. We should not be surprised that God would make the most critical things, like salvation, simple for us all to understand. Minimalism, experts remind us, is user-friendly and accessible. That is why we like it so. And it is also why God, the Master Designer, set up things so that the simplest among us can gain wisdom from it (Psalm 19.7).  

Indeed, what can be more minimalist than the Gospel?  

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Lessons From Adversity: Finding Equilibrium

Lessons From Adversity: Finding Equilibrium

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Balance is that for which we hope and are vigilant to achieve. As true as this is for obedience (see 2 Kings 22.2), it is likewise needed emotionally. I’d like for us to note that optimum mental health in a fallen world is also a matter of equilibrium.

 

Let’s begin with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the “gorilla” we call sadness. Why can’t we always be happy? It’s not that God did not intend for us to be happy. He created a world He described as “very good” (Genesis 1.31) and placed us into the idyllic Eden. Yet, in the exercise of our free will, we couldn’t abstain from eating the fruit of the one tree that was forbidden. Thus, when one is dealing with a broken world, sadness is going to come. We’ve even become so accustomed to its existence we create platitudes touting its presence. The Arab proverb states, “All sunshine makes a desert.” Even though sunshine is grand, weather consisting of only sunny days deviates from equilibrium bringing an environment hostile to life. Hence, it’s a bad thing. We’re left with the astounding proposition that for us to better appreciate the sunshine, we must learn to appreciate the rain.

 

In order to find emotional balance, one must avoid positive feedback loops. Yes, I realize this sounds counterproductive to our goal. Positive is a good thing, correct? Think of positive in this context as “plus.” It adds to. Do you want to read of a Biblical example of one caught in an emotional positive feedback loop? Read 1 Kings 18.20-19.21. Despite experiencing the glorious victory God brought over the prophets of Baal, Elijah retreats into a cave and sulks. Jezebel wants to kill him, and this is what Elijah becomes focused upon. What is Elijah’s positive feedback loop? Despite his faithfulness, his isolation reinforces his belief he is alone in the fight for God (1 Kings 19.10).

 

God clears up Elijah’s misconception, reminding him that there were other faithful servants of God in Israel (1 Kings 19.18). He wasn’t alone. God also gave Elijah a compatriot in Elisha. In other words, God introduced a negative feedback loop. No longer able to fixate solely on himself, Elijah undertook the mentorship of Elisha (1 Kings 19.16). Elisha, in turn, ministered to the needs of Elijah (1 Kings 19.21).

 

When dealing with adversity, it’s our nature to retreat into solitude. Yet, this is not what God intends for us. I’m not denying that we all need private “closet time” (Matthew 6.6). Jesus often sought solitude to pray. However, allowing ourselves to feel cut off from brethren creates a positive feedback loop accentuating our anxieties. Is it any wonder that as Christians we are commanded to focus outwardly upon others (Philippians 2.4)? We are even exhorted to assemble so we will stir one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10.24-25).

 

Let us not allow adversity to destroy our emotional equilibrium. Rather, let us use it, with the assistance of others, to weave richer colors into the tapestry of our lives.

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view from Mt. Carmel (photo credit: Kathy Pollard)