There is a lot of beauty to be found in simple things. Sometimes it takes a kid to help us to look through all of the clutter and see that beauty in a fresh way.
I became a Christian when I was very young. The church I grew up in put a lot of emphasis on the sinner’s prayer, the walking of aisles and the raising of hands. As a young Christian, I spent a lot of time worrying about whether or not my faith was legitimate. Did I say the prayer right? Was I thinking the right thing when I walked down and stood in front of the church? What if I left something out?
The other night, standing under the cold dark sky in my driveway, it was like I was having a conversation with my younger self. Like me, my son became a Christian at a young age. Unlike me, he doesn’t know much about altar calls and raising hands and repeating public prayers after revival preachers. But he still has his doubts.
He was worried that maybe he got his prayer wrong all of those years ago when he asked God to forgive him for his sins. Like his father did before him, he feared that a misplaced prepositional phrase in a prayer could mean the difference between heaven and hell. To comfort him, I walked him through the Bible. I went to some of the same Bible passages people carried me through when I was younger. We talked about salvation being more about the cry of the sinner’s heart than the repeating of a sinner’s prayer. We talked about things like belief and Lordship and resurrection.
I asked him if he understood what I was saying. Before I had kids, I never did that. I never understood why people would end their sentences with phrases like, “You know what I mean?” or “Do you see what I’m saying?” Now that I’m a dad, I do it all the time. I guess that I just want to be sure.
He told me that he understood. But his face told a different story. It was the canvas for an uncommon mixture of comfort and confusion.
“I get it but it all just seems so simple,” he said in a prophetic tone you can only hear from a child.
That’s when I knew that he really got it.
My son is a worker. A hard worker. A few months ago, he set a really high goal for reading books in one of his classes. About midway through the semester, it looked like he wasn’t going to make it. So he got to work. My son read more words in the last few weeks of 2016 than I did in twelve years of grade school.
He met his goal.
I think that’s why the simplicity of the gospel had my son confused the other night in our driveway. When you meet a reading goal, you get to sit back and delight in the work that you did. You can say, “I did that.”
Not so with the gospel. Before Christ, we were all “children of wrath” fighting against God (Ephesians 2:3). We were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). Dead rebels don’t usually have a lot to bring to the table. Just their faith.
And, just in case we might begin to think that our faith is somehow a product of our own doing, Paul reminds us otherwise.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)
The Christian life is not simple. Temptation can be very difficult. It’s hard to love enemies. It’s hard to fight against sin. Like Rich Mullins sang, “It’s hard to be like Jesus.”
But thanks to things like grace and love and the cross, it’s not hard to come to God. That’s because he’s the one who does all of the work. And he does that work on behalf of the small sons of a preacher as well as seasoned drug addicts. He pours out the riches of his grace, mercy and love, “on all who call on him” (Romans 10:12).
It really is that simple.
Sometimes the simplest things can be the most beautiful things.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (ESV)