I am a huge fan of Albert Einstein’s maxim, “Everything should be made as simple as possible... but not more so...” But nowadays, people seem to be committed to finding overly-simple answers to complicated questions.
“It’s all the other guy’s fault.”
“I’m getting a divorce because my wife’s a jerk.”
“The President is the anti-Christ.”
“The President is a gift from God.”
“The shooter was just some kind of a nut.”
“It was just a terrorist shooting.”
“It was a racist thing.”
“It had nothing to do with racism.”
And the list goes on and on and on...
The fact of the matter is, a great number of things that we deal with in life are complex. I don’t mean that we can’t understand them -- I mean that they usually have more than one moving part. Maybe part of the problem is your wife’s attitude, but part of the problem is also your own. Maybe racism wasn’t the full explanation to an action, but that doesn’t discount that there may have been elements of that prejudice involved. Etc. But we tend to like to look for simple, easy-to-grasp answers that reinforce the ways that we already like to look at the world around us.
Then again, there are other times when we like to complicate things that really are simple. “Sin is bad” (though we love to think that there are gray areas for “little white lies” or “justifiable responses”). “God is good” (though we often judge Him by our own ambiguous and inconsistently convoluted senses of morality). “We are saved by faith” (though we tend to want to add more to that in order to feel better about doing our part). Etc.
We talked about that a bit in the second of our series on “The Five Solas of the Reformation,” leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, looking at “Sola Fide” (“Faith Alone”) -- the conviction that we are saved solely by faith in Christ, without any added actions on our part. On one level, you’d think that people would love to hear that there’s nothing else that they have to do in order to be saved (because people love the idea of a free lunch). But then, that concept makes most people a little uncomfortable (because people know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch) -- they keep waiting for the catch or hidden fee, or they feel like they really need to do something to compensate God for His salvation, or they feel like it’s some sort of indictment against them that they can’t reimburse God for salvation.
Of course, the reason why we must be saved by faith -- and faith alone -- is precisely because we all already stand under an indictment for our moral shortcomings, and there’s absolutely nothing that we could do to properly or significantly reimburse God for His payment for our sins. But we still want to complicate His simple gift in order to make us feel better about the whole thing. Think about how much morality begins with, “Why, how could I look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t...?” and you’ll realize how many of our actions are far more about “feeling righteous” than about “being righteous” on a daily basis.
Then again, if we have a real, living faith, then that’s going to be something that’s lived out in a conscious, active, real-world sort of lifestyle. We can’t say that we “just” have faith, then do nothing to live like the ambassadors that we’ve been saved to be. But those actions must come from a basis of being saved, and never a basis of trying to justify being saved.
Some things are just plain simple. Some things aren’t.
How does “Sola Fide” fit into your perspective of how simple God’s gift of salvation is, at its core?