- of vital importance; crucial.
“immediate action was imperative.”
- giving an authoritative command; peremptory.
“the bell pealed again, a final imperative call.”
The challenge to “Go and Make”
Ever notice Jesus’ commands are mostly one-syllable words!
Love, Serve, Obey, Go, Make. Interesting. What do you take away from that observation? Here is my takeaway. Jesus’ commands are simple to comprehend.
However, Don’t Confuse Simple with Easy
Many parts of our existence can be lived by following uncomplicated, simple, yet hard to live day-in and day-out, principles or rules.
Consider the following simple situations. Want to lose weight? It’s simple! Eat fewer calories than you consume. Want to stop smoking? It’s simple! Ween your body off nicotine. It should only take 20+ days for the nicotine to be out of your body. Want to understand time travel? It is simple, after all, it is E = mc2.
While we may all know those above statements, and if we may even be able to write Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, we would no doubt not use the word easy to describe any of them.
Two observations. First, we are the benefactors of the originators’ hard work of developing and testing their theories. Second, while they may roll off our tongues, they can be difficult to accept and even more difficult to master.
My point? Simple does not equal easy. The simple statements above are true. The reality is that losing weight, no longer being tormented by the craving for a cigarette, and understanding Einstein’s Theory of Relativity are far from easy. However, we continue to almost instinctively think that because something is simple to state in words, it is therefore easyto accomplish. (Perhaps with the exception of the Theory of Special Relativity!)
We make the same error with Jesus’ direction. His direction is never complicated. It just isn’t easy. And unlike Einstein’s Theories, no PhD is required.
Yet this continuation of instinctively equating Jesus’ simple, straightforward direction with being easy to accomplish has consequences. In our search to fulfil the Master’s commands, we can either complicate his direction or become frustrated and critical of our failures.
Yes, we complicate it. Do you remember Jesus’ teaching about loving your neighbor in Luke 10:25-37? As Jesus points his questioners back to God’s Word about loving your neighbor, he is asked, “Who is my neighbor?” The text says that the person asking that question was seeking to justify himself. I understand to mean that if they can tightly define “neighbor” as a small group, in fact the smallest possible group, they have a chance to fulfil the Law. They might just be successful.
We are very similar to the person asking the question. As Christians, we want to feel like we are following Jesus. There is, however, a trap. Our need for success, our need to justify to ourselves that we are good Christians, nullifies God’s love towards us. We forget that God loves us unconditionally. We turn inward, trying to prove to ourselves, to justify to ourselves, that we are worthy of His love.
Without realizing it, we have turned inside-out a very simple to understand command: love your neighbor. That inside-outness has another consequence. We become legalistic. We essentially say, “I will fulfil the Law, but not go one iota further!” We’ve taken a simple command and now are not only not doing it, but we have made it negative.
But we don’t stop there. Our failure, to day-in and day-out living these commands, frustrates us. The more we are lectured about them, the more the frustration builds. We look for an escape from this guilt. We look for someone else to assign responsibility to carry them out. We find refuge in a number of places. One is in the idea of Spiritual Gifts. We take comfort in assigning ourselves outside of Jesus’ command and into a category of “not my spiritual gift”. We, now standing outside the problem, are able to criticize those responsible.
We have moved from complicating Jesus’ direction to criticizing others who are not living them. Hang around a few church folks, and the criticism roll off our tongues about how the church is not “going and making”. And hey, people are right to criticize, but I think Jesus has said something about this in Matthew 7:5, having to do with eyes and planks.
By now, you’ve grasped that there is this huge chasm that exists between simple and easy. For the church, for followers of Jesus, there is more.
Obeying God Is a Spiritual Battle!
The Bible teaches us that receiving Jesus into our hearts is not the finish line. No, it is the starting line of a new life, a new journey. We start on living a life devoted to God. We will wrestle with this journey of life. That wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but as it says in Ephesians 6:12, against spiritual forces.
Anytime we seek to order our lives around God’s principles, we face spiritual opposition. We need to remind ourselves that God’s principles apply not merely to what the world labels as spiritual or religious. God owns all of it and all of us! What we eat and drink. Where we work. How we talk. All of this is to be devoted to Him.
When we seek to live in such a way, the game is afoot. Let’s simply list the seven deadly sins: greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth, and pride. Please note, not sharing your faith isn’t on the list. The list is full of the everyday activities of life. Satan twists, fill these with lies and turns our using them wrongly into sin. Food gets twisted to gluttony. Rest gets twisted to sloth. The list goes on. The Father of Lies is a master twister.
Now imagine you want to “go and make”.
For Satan, you have now entered into a full-on battle. Charles Alexander, the co-founder of The Pocket Testament League, said, “The last thing the devil will let you do is win a soul definitely to Christ. If you don’t believe it, try it. He will let you never miss a prayer meeting or Sunday service; he will even let you get up and lecture on religious subjects, and do all sorts of religious deeds if you will stop short of one thing, and that is to get face-to-face with individuals, to bring them to a decision for Jesus Christ, and to get them to confess Him openly before the world1.” Charles should know he spent his life seeking to win souls.
Satan goes to work on taking Jesus’ simple, straightforward command and getting us twisted and turned.
You might think, given that eternity is at stake, God would have a different plan.
1 Helen Cadbury. Charles Alexander, A Romance of Song and Soul-Winning. By His Wife. Originally published Marshall Brothers. London. Re-published by Forgotten Books. 2012. p. 12.