“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40]
A couple of weeks ago, Becky and I visited a gorgeous historic hotel in the Colorado mountains.
Designers restored and modernized this majestic treasure, including remarkable accessibility, while maintaining its unique charm. In one spot a small patio sits at the bottom of a steep slope with stunning views of surrounding landscapes. At the top of the slope, neatly hidden from sight, is a modern parking lot. The challenge: how to allow visitors to change levels without destroying the beauty of this secluded oasis.
A simple set of steps solves the problem for most folks, but they’d be an intrusion on the natural environment and wouldn’t allow easy access for all. Instead, architects created a curving, gently-pitched path that winds down the hill. Benches, trees, and strategically-placed colorful plants guide visitors to the bottom along a series of small pools connected by bubbling waterfalls. The solution is simple and elegant and enhances the space.
It’s the perfect answer to a difficult problem. Someone worked hard to create this unobtrusive, peaceful complexity that almost disappears into the background.
Simple—but not simplistic. Complex—but not complicated.
In the scripture above, Jesus is asked for the first priority in His teaching, and I don’t think the first word He spoke was an accident. “Love …” The answer is so simple. Like that gentle path on a steep hillside, He distills centuries of scholarship into a single word. “Love …”
And we reply, “Yeah, but …”
You can almost hear their response. “Love? You want us to solve everything with love? You have no idea how complicated our lives can be. It’s just not that easy!”
And He smiles gently and says, Really? You think I don’t understand?
When we encounter adversity, pain, grief, and unbearable despair, life seems much too complicated for such a simplistic response. We need a pragmatic answer, something that works in the real world. When the past covers you with a blanket of shame and guilt, the present spins out of control, and the future looms in darkness devoid of direction, Jesus doesn’t seem to get how impossible it all seems.
And He smiles gently and points to the cross. He gets it.
When God first greeted Adam and Eve in the garden, He pointed to the wonderful complexity of all He’d created. His command was simple. Live in loving relationship with each other and with Me. Enjoy it all, but don’t mess with this one tree.
Their disobedience cluttered the world with the complications of sin and polluted God’s simple design. He made it complex—we made it complicated.
Jesus gets it, and He still stands and points to the cross.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30]
Easy? Light? Rest? What about all of that theology and religion, the books and the study? And what about all of the junk that the world dumps on us, not to mention our own mistakes and failures? What’s so light and easy about any of that?
And He smiles gently. The religion, theology, and sin aren’t His stuff. That’s all ours, the product of our own silly attempts to do it our way. In fact, I love the way this passage is expressed in The Message:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Jesus lived simply, but His message certainly isn’t simplistic. He doesn’t promise an easy life; in fact, His life was hard precisely because He chose the simple truth of love.
But my way’s hard too, and seems only to surround me only with more and more levels of complicated, tangled messes that become ever more snarled as I struggle to free myself. Jesus didn’t design this jumbled confusion, but He does understand it. He lived it, and He knows the only effective escape strategy.
The simple question isn’t whether He understands. He does. The only question is whether I believe enough to trust His elegantly uncomplicated guidance.
And I echo the man from Mark 9: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13:13]
Faith, hope, and love. Simple—but not simplistic. Complex—but not complicated.
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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com
What’s an aspect of your life that seems overwhelmingly complicated? Does any of this make sense in that circumstance?