Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Minimalist Gospel

It doesn't mean giving up everything.

She came to church to get things in order. She has cleaned up her life. Stopped dating men she met at bars. Got her kids enrolled in the church’s summer camp. Cleaned out her closets. Tossed a few outfits she should never have bought. And some books and movies. She quit smoking. Made up with her sister. The only thing left is to up her commitment to God. No more clutter and distractions. Just good clean living. So here she is. Telling God what she has to offer. And what she’s willing to give up. Don’t come at her with a bucket of holy water. Don’t put her on the prayer list. This new plan of hers is all about keeping it simple. She’s even thinking about becoming a minimalist, though she’s not quite sure what that means. But she’s not here to get in over her head. She only wants to get her spiritual side in line with the rest of her shiny new life. She figures if anything should fall under the category of minimalism, it’s this thing they call the Gospel.

A lot of people approach God that way. The minimalist Gospel is restrained, unassuming, and unobtrusive. It assumes you’re pretty close to being okay. If it does reveal a problem, it assures you it can be corrected with little pain or sacrifice. No plying into your daily life with demands of new behavior. Sin is not the issue. Feeling loved is what counts. Repentance is simply an understanding with God that He will accept you. He didn’t before, but now He does. So, did you repent? Or did God?

A soul reaching for a minimalist Gospel will not extend repentance as far as it must go in order to be redeemed. The belief is that we don’t need to address the depths from which we must be rescued. We want a little soap and water. We want the snot wiped off. We know we need something only God can give, and so we grab a little Gospel and apply it sparingly. And keep on walking. But we’re zombies. Our skin is rotting. Our bones are dried up. We’re dressed in rags that don’t cover our skeletal remains.

A dangerous assumption is that not all sinners need a liberal dose of the Gospel. Some people need a complete overhaul, while others only need a tweak. This attitude leads to self-righteousness, which is really no righteousness at all. It settles in legalism. It pets the ego with sympathy and approval. The result is an unredeemed soul living under the guise of being a good person. And to that—the hope of being a good—the soul hopelessly clings.

The minimalist Gospel demands little from the one who accepts it. There must be a belief in God, recognition of Christ, and a level of commitment to right living. For some, this means going to church. For others, it means giving up some bad habits. It doesn’t mean giving up on everything you consider worthy about yourself. Or casting aside everything you think will set you in right standing before God. Everything that makes you who you are. Everything that makes you feel alive. It doesn’t mean giving up everything.

And it doesn’t mean gaining anything.

What is the opposite of minimalist? Outlandish, ornate, excessive. Lavish. Next week’s blog…that’s right…will be about the lavish Gospel.

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