"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him." ― Leo Tolstoy
I don't remember where I found this quote, but it struck a chord and, as is my habit when that occurs, I copied and pasted it into my ever-expanding notebook of scribbles, because Tolstoy really hit the nail on the head with this thought.
I don't have the context of the quote, so I've no idea what subject Tolstoy was struggling to explain, nor if he faced a slow-witted but willing listener or a well-educated know-it-all. What I do know is that in terms of Christianity, his thought is more than apropos.
A friend stopped by several years ago while Danny was reading the Bible. Seeing it open on the coffee table he inquired whether this Bible talked about the gods that came before "this God." Danny was aghast. This friend was a frequent church-goer, presumably a believer, leaving Danny to wonder now precisely what he really believed.
Unless I am speaking with a known brother or sister in the Lord, most conversations that circle around to the religious arena begin with a question prefaced by: "Well, I know that this church or that fellowship believe thus and so." (Frequent readers can fill in the appropriate blanks, I'm sure.) Those questions seldom involve the central message of the Gospel, rather they typically deal with some treasured tradition or strictly held tenet that simply doesn't appear in Scripture. More troubling are the false prophets in the field. You're stuck with simultaneously correcting the false teaching while advocating for the Truth. It makes for some difficult conversations, but I do not shrink from them.
Small wonder then, that religion and politics are off-limit topics of conversation.
Taking the subject of politics in hand; as this is written, the polls are still open and the race reportedly so close we may not know by this time Wednesday whether or not we have a new president or more of the same. Many would be of the opinion, and I would likely share that opinion, that regardless of who wins, we're in for "more of the same." Our "ship-of-state" has become so over-sized, the rudder cannot turn it easily or quickly. It reminds me of an old truck driving song where the chorus repeats, "Give me 40 acres and I'll turn this rig around."
As important as the political arena is -- the decisions made in the voting booth have the potential to impact millions of lives, for good or ill -- the religious arena is of far greater importance, impacting billions of souls across the face of the globe over millennia.
People have studied it out, read veritable tomes of commentary, compared non-denominational fellowships with denominations, both Protestant and Catholic, some of which have imported new age teachings, pagan practices or both, and yet they still struggle with the simplistic message central to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The reason John 3:16 is so often quoted is because it contains all you need to know today, to be saved. You will spend the rest of your earthbound life learning how to live that way. I said it was simple. I did not say it would be easy. Neither did the Lord.
I have been lied to, betrayed, abandoned, abused and I am not alone. In some way, at some time, we all have been. I also have lied, betrayed, abandoned and abused. I dare say, in one measure or another, we all have. How sad it is to die with a lie on your lips. The guilt, the unremitting guilt of eternity, would be hell enough for me, fire and brimstone notwithstanding.
This I know because the truth of it is lived out in my life daily.
God never lies. He puts it all out front. He challenges, he warns, he mourns. He told the first generation as simply as he is telling this generation what he requires of men. Will you believe him?
"For this is what the Lord says-- he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited -- he says: 'I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.' 'I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.'" Isaiah 45:18, 19 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know and love the One who does. Let's walk in his love and discover him together.