I want you to know how glad I am that it's me sitting here in this jail and not you. There's a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church's part of that suffering. When I became a servant in this church, I experienced this suffering as a sheer gift, God's way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth.
This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it's out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God's glory. It's that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That's what I'm working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. - Colossians 1:24-29, The Message
I find it fascinating how different Christianity has become since these early days. We now have tomes of theology books, two thousand years or so of writing about the profound mystery of the Message. If you look for a Bible you are overwhelmed by choices and decisions to make. There is a Bible for every niche. All of this so that we can try and understand “this rich and glorious secret.”
We have taken the profoundly simple and beautiful and made it profoundly difficult and often times ugly.
It is a remarkable phrase is it not, “To be mature is to be basic.”
Too often in our modern Christian world we believe the most mature Christians are those with tons of knowledge. We believe that maturity comes from adding the alphabet after our names: M.Div, Th.M, PhD, and the like. But, it does not. Often folks with the alphabet after their name are no more mature in their faith than someone who just began following The Way.
Why is that? They know so much!
It’s because often in our learning we lose sight of what really matters, Christ.
The most mature followers of The Way that I know are those quiet, humble, women and men who are simply showing up and loving their neighbor as themselves.
They are basic.
I love sports. I can become enamored with great feats in sports. For instance, Miguel Cabrera was chasing many career milestones this baseball season and every night I watched the games hoping to see it happen. Or when Tiger Woods was completing his “Tiger Slam,” winning all four golf majors consecutively, I watched every stroke of his rounds. We see these amazing athletes do some amazing things. What we don’t see or notice is the hours spent my Cabrera hitting off a tee or Woods working on his game at the driving range. What are they doing? They are working on the basics. The difference between average and greatness, often times, are the basics. The greats do the basics nearly perfectly, every single time.
Paul was desperate for his people to be basic. Grabbing hold of Christ and never letting go. Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians wrote this, “Thus it is an urgent necessity that the preaching of the Gospel continue among us, that we may hear and retain it, otherwise we would soon forget our Lord.”
I find it interesting that in our culture the term “basic” has become something a bit derogatory. Yet, when it comes to following The Way we must hold onto being basic as though our lives depend on it.
How much different would our homes, neighborhoods, and towns look if those who followed The Way were simply, basic?