I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a simple faith. I know this is fairly ironic, considering that I’m currently attending a program designed to make me theologically precise and articulate. But really, the more I read about theology, the more I’m convinced I should be living out a simple faith.
What do I mean by simple faith? I mean one that is dominated by one commitment, to love as strongly and deeply as you can. In a world where Christians are increasingly gaining reputations for hypocrisy, judgementalism, and a whole host of other negative adjectives, every once in a while you hear something truly heartening. For example, the young Christian lesbian who came out to her very conservative parents who, while disagreeing, welcomed her and her girlfriend into their home. This friend of mine recounted to me that one day, her deeply conservative father looked at her and said that since sin is a thing characterized by bad or damaging fruits, and since her relationship seemed to be building her faith and building her character, he would stop preaching her sin to her when she came home. Her mom and dad decided to let the judgment be between her and God, and to continue loving her in all ways.
That, to me, exemplifies the heart of simple faith. When it comes down to it, my biggest aspiration is to know on my death bed that I have loved as violently as I can. I’m not so great at that right now. I’m judgmental and grouchy and really not all that interested in being kind to strangers. Every once in a while, I get a pang of conscience that I should look at someone and really see them, but those moments are few and far between. But I aspire to be someone better.
I think theology is important. I think it informs the kind of life you lead, because it informs your understanding of the way the world works. But at the end of the day, I would prefer to put aside the intellectually based faith I so often fall into when studying theology, and instead take up a faith that is lived daily, simply, and without ostentation.
Simplicity is, after all, a Christian virtue. But we so often interpret that as a call away from physical goods and to a life of austerity. What if that external simplicity is just a physical posture to represent the way our souls work? What if the call of simplicity is also a call to simple love, to acts of service, to a faith that informs not just the way you worship but also the way you ultimately make day-by-day decisions?
When I talk about this thought with some of my friends here at school, they frequently remind me of the adulteress whom Christ forgives, and then tells to “go and sin no more.” Isn’t it the Christian’s duty to love and to convict as well? Aren’t we to speak the truth with love into lives clearly in need of salvation? I think those are valid points, but I also think that Christ’s example should be looked at with the clear understanding that He is a unique happening in history. Christ was, well, Christ. God-Incarnate. Human and divine. And I have this feeling that Christ actually knew how to balance and convey both truth and love in His words, an area that I myself am sorely lacking in. I can’t do things perfectly. I can’t even do them half-well. So if I’m going to make an error, I would prefer to err on the side of too much love. If you speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have no love in conveying your message, then of what use are you to the good news?
I’m not sure I’ve articulated much of anything here. I want to be the sort of person who can say truthfully that the love of God compels me to love.