Acts 15

I used to be really good at making things more complicated than they need to be. As a kid who was fascinated by how things worked, tightening a single bolt on my bike could turn into an afternoon taking the whole thing apart simply because I couldn’t resist the path that my curiosity led me down. As a teenager I hated cleaning my room, but somewhere along the line I realized that the chore was more enticing if I also rearranged all of the furniture in the process (one time—no kidding—I even convinced my parents to let me paint the walls and ceiling a new color before I put everything away). I like to think that I have matured beyond the annoying habit of making things overly cumbersome, but in the spirit of honesty I have to admit that I am still pretty good at it.

For example, on a recent trip to visit my parents in Michigan, we booked an extremely early return flight. But we had a relatively simple plan to get home smoothly.

In theory our plan looked something like this:
  • Drive to the airport the night prior to our flight. 
  • Sleep in the car in the cell phone lot until we return the rental car just in time to breeze through check in and security 
  • Board flight and return home 

In reality our itinerary looked more like this:
  • Drive to the airport (so far so good).
  • Realize the car rental counter closes earlier than we thought, prompting a new plan to return the car and get to the airport where we could still theoretically sleep near our gate until boarding and departure.
  • Arrive at TSA checkpoint only to learn that, while technically open, security is not able to allow passengers through for the next day’s flights until 3:00 a.m.
  • Find a place to wait (and maybe sleep?) near check-in counter, only to learn that one of our fellow travelers has forgotten to charge his headphones, but has generously opted to share his favorite music at full volume with all of us in the area.
  • Explain to our kids what “all of those words mean” and quietly encourage them to put on their own headphones while we all try to get some rest.
  • Discover that we have in fact left one of our own sets of headphones in the rental car.
  • Return to the rental car garage to relocate missing headphones.
  • Make friends with Dale Smith, the rental garage attendant who miraculously helps us to retrieve our prodigal headphones and who earns a 10-star review from our family on the customer survey.
  • Return to TSA at 3:00 a.m. to learn than we are in the right location, but have not used the correct line to reach that location. We will need to join the crowd around the corner only to return to the same location, but through the TSA-sanctioned lane dividers.
  • Snag in airport security: I forget to remove my belt.
  • Discover that our flight is an hour later than we thought. Maybe we should have stayed at my parents’ house and just driven the next morning?
  • Snooze for what feels like 15 minutes at our gate.
  • Board flight home.
  • Arrive in Denver.
  • Realize we left our phone charger on the nightstand at my parents’ house.

Maybe your particular experience looks different than my family’s most recent trip through the airport, but I think it’s possible that tendency to overcomplicate is just woven into the human condition, whether it manifests in little things like taking apart bikes or rearranging rooms or things that feel bigger, like trips to visit family. I’m sure someone smarter than me has come up with a formula to illustrate this idea, but it seems that as the importance of any particular situation increases, so does the human capacity to make that situation more complicated.
It should come as no surprise, then, that when it comes to something like following Jesus, the likelihood of things getting complicated from time to time is pretty high. This would certainly have been the case for the early Church as they were trying to figure out their way of being in the world. I can imagine that, among all of their other priorities, it must have felt really critical to get the nuances of what life should look like as a Jesus follower correct—it must have been, because the writer of Acts tells us they called a meeting to figure out the best way forward. At the same time, I love Paul’s advice to the council:

“Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”

In other words: why are we trying to make life so difficult for people who want to follow Jesus when we can’t even follow our own rules?

Sometimes I wonder what our churches might look like if we asked ourselves the same question today. I suppose the conversation that followed would probably include phrases about “accountability” or “speaking truth in love” or “watering down the Gospel.” That last phrase has always bothered me, because if the word “gospel” really means “good news,” then the version of evangelism I grew up with starts to feel like sort of a bait and switch.

Here’s some good news, but there’s a catch.
Here’s some good news, but there is also some fine print…

I don’t think Jesus played those kinds of games, especially when it came to the gospel. Instead, I think he gave people good news that was usually pretty simple. I remember Jesus saying simpler things to his followers. Things like:

Let the little children come to me.
My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Come to me if you are weary and I will give you rest.

I should probably be careful to say that I’m not advocating for “cheap grace.” Instead, what I am suggesting is that when Jesus talked about removing the plank from our own eyes before helping our neighbors, he knew that life is complicated enough. Maybe, like the first followers of Jesus, we would do well to remember that life is complex, even before we factor in our own inclination to make it more difficult. What if we really believed following Jesus was so simple that anyone could to it?

That would be good news, indeed.

By Elia King



Posted in
Posted in ,

No Comments