When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. [Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)]
A friend sent me a meditation written by a well-known Christian writer and asked me what I thought. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say because I couldn’t understand it. As I struggled to make sense of the author’s words, I remembered a gifted gentleman at our northern church who would occasionally give the sermon when our pastor was absent. Every time he spoke, I vowed to pay close attention so I could decipher his message. With his vast vocabulary, immense Biblical knowledge, and deep faith, one would think I could have taken something away from his sermons. Sadly, I never did—he always left me bewildered and confused! Why, I wonder, do some pastors, theologians and Christian writers make faith and our relationship with God so incredibly mysterious and difficult to understand?
During worship last week, the soloist sang “Yes, my Jesus Loves Me,” a beautiful song based on the well-known children’s hymn. Before starting her sermon, the pastor thanked the singer and then told the congregation that if we took nothing away from the service other than the knowledge that Jesus loves us, we will have taken away all that we needed to know! Now, there’s a preacher who knows how to put her message in words we all can understand!
When I couldn’t comprehend a sermon or a Christian writer’s words, I used to think something was wrong with me—my faith wasn’t deep enough or I was stupid. Just because we’re not as learned, philosophical or pensive as others, however, doesn’t mean we have less faith and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re stupid! Being a follower of Christ doesn’t require some secret knowledge and there’s nothing wrong with us if we don’t always understand what a pastor says or a theologian writes. God didn’t make all of us deep thinkers; then again, He didn’t have to! His message isn’t intended for a select few religious scholars and intellectuals. When Jesus gave His “Sermon on the Mount,” He wasn’t speaking to the priests, Pharisees and sages; he was speaking to a crowd of Jews and Gentiles who were ordinary people like you and me. His message was simple, straightforward, heartfelt, and God-breathed. What is known as the “mystery of God” is His plan of salvation through Jesus and there is nothing mysterious, baffling or cryptic about it.
Let us never disparage our faith because we’re not learned or academically trained. Moreover, let us never allow our amateur status keep us from sharing the gospel message. Jesus spent His time with common people, not religious scholars and intellectuals. Peter, the rock on which the Christian church is built, was a fisherman, as were most of the disciples. The Apostle Paul, as a Pharisee, was the only theologian in the group! What mattered was that they loved Jesus and spread His message far and wide. If all anyone knows after speaking with us is that Jesus loves them, they’ve taken away a powerful message, indeed!