“I came up poor. My mother only had a fourth-grade education. My dad didn’t have any education at all. But they were very structured. They worked hard. You know, they didn’t complain. They didn’t murmur. And they believe in the Christ.”- Evander Holyfield
“That (godliness) is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”- 1 Timothy 4:10 (NIV)
“The farther backward you look, the further forward you are likely to see.”- Winston Churchill
I entered fourth grade at Timothy Lutheran School (Chicago, IL) in September of 1960, transferring from the Evergreen Park public school system. Although my parents faithfully attended church every Sunday, they sensed God nudging them to provide a Christian day school education for their only child. So began a series of daily encounters with Jesus that spanned fourth grade through my graduation from Concordia, River Forest.
Most noteworthy, specific Jesus moments at Timothy stand out. I remember my excitement the day I purchased my first Bible (KJV, of course) at Timothy’s school bookstore. As an eighth-grader, I wore my black suit to usher at weekly school chapel services. Because our classroom didn’t have a piano, Mr. Trautsch led acapella singing of hymns paired with our daily classroom devotion. Finally, Mr. Lutz’s compassion for a tearful, lonely me resonated throughout my teaching ministry.
In Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, Mark Batterson recalls the time he descended into the catacombs beneath the fourth-century Church of San Clemente in Rome. There he felt profound gratitude and conviction. He truly understood that early Christians risked everything, including their lives, to worship God. And Mark absorbed the ancient, fundamental origins of the Christian faith. He came to see Christianity in its most primal form – the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30). But, although this sounds simple, it’s certainly not as simple as it sounds. Former Supreme Court chief justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I would not give a fig for simplicity on the near side of complexity.”
Many Christians, Pastor Batterson observes, settle for that type of simplicity. While they know what they believe, they don’t know why they hold that belief. However, Christians on the far side of simplicity arrive there from spending time in the catacombs of doubt or suffering. In turn, this heightens their appreciation for the mystery and majesty of God. Mark explains:
“God calls us to simplicity on the far side of complexity. For that matter, He calls us to faith on the far side of doubt, joy on the far side of sorrow, and love on the far side of anger.”
Consequently, Mark exhorts, rediscover what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Also, witness to everyone that you believe in the Christ. And proclaim the Easter message of J. S. Bach (Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4):
“Christ lay in death’s bonds/ handed over for our sins,/ He is risen again/ and has brought us life./ For this we should be joyful,/ praise God and be thankful to Him/ and sing alleluia,/ Alleluia!”