Ever notice that when your kids really don’t want to do something, they will find anything and everything else to do before getting to the undesirable job? Forget the kids, I do this myself. Sometimes the hard task gets postponed for something else that truly is a good thing to do. Nevertheless, the good becomes an escape to avoid the better, and easier wins out over harder. When this happens in our Christian walk, the ivory tower ends up trumping real life.
So it can be if we become preoccupied with doctrinal issues (by that I mean What is the correct opinion on XYZ issue?) to the exclusion of the hard job of Christian living. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that correct opinions on who Jesus is, what he came for, and how to follow him are unimportant. But I will go out on a limb here and say that once a person is a believer, the most important struggle is not to understand systematic theology or eschatology but to understand our own heart and turn it to do the Lord’s work.
“What’s so hard about Christian living?” you say. How about being Christlike to the waiter who was really bad at customer service? How about choosing entertainment for ourselves and our families that isn’t in conflict with Christian morality and living? How about stepping up to lead our families, rather than letting them meander aimlessly through the spiritual minefields of the pop culture? How about resisting the urge to pass on that very interesting tidbit of gossip about a brother or sister in Christ (or anyone else, for that matter), and choosing to take James’ advice seriously:
James 4:11 – Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
If we’re truly honest about ourselves, these types of Christian living issues are where the rubber meets the road in Christianity, not the dry theories expounded and debated in seminaries around the world. Those debates tend to divide, and ultimately conquer those who use them to escape the hard work of living a life that is sold out for Jesus Christ.
Just as the theologians of Jesus’ day were escaping the front lines of the battle that takes place in the heart by retreating to the desk job of interpreting the law for everyone else, we too can escape the heart and soul of Christianity if we become overly preoccupied with matters of opinon that matter little to God at all. (Does God really care what organizational means we use to help the fatherless and widows, or does he just care that we help the fatherless and widows?)
My kids can put off their hard chores for awhile by doing easier ones. Eventually, though, they’ll have to answer to me for why they didn’t do what I really wanted them to do.
Isaiah 29:13 – The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.