Radical Simplicity

You should be thankful we only memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in our American schools, and not Edward Everett’s Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s historic speech rounds out at a tweetable 272 words. Everett — who was actually the keynote speaker and spoke before Lincoln — spoke for close to 2 hours. Yikes.

Everett, ever the gentlemen, told President Lincoln afterwards, “…I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

I feel you, Everett. Simplicity and clarity are refreshing. Don’t simplicity and clarity seem like rare commodities these days? Something like an elusive Popeyes chicken sandwich. (RIP)

Maybe you’re like me. I find myself trading the important for the urgent. Your days start to look like shotgun spreads of activity instead of rifle-like precision towards the people and actions that matter most.


The more I look at Jesus’ earliest days of ministry, I can’t help but stand back in amazement over the remarkable focus he demonstrated. Simple, focused action on the surface reflects the peace of having clear priorities in our souls. Where did Jesus get his priorities? Mark 1.35 describes the private life of Jesus this way: “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Simple, focused action on the surface reflects the peace of having clear priorities in our souls.

Followers of Jesus can enjoy lives of simplicity and clarity as biproducts of intimacy with God. The major difference between the productivity systems we create to keep up with modernity, and prophetic, countercultural Christianity is the former focuses on output, while the latter focuses on input.

Many of us use our productivity systems to help us speed up our output — “get stuff done!” But the simplicity and clarity that comes from God is all about decreasing our inputs — the voices that compete with God for our attention and our action.

When God’s voice becomes the only voice you recognize in a world filled with voices, we begin to experience the practical peace of following Jesus in our everyday. (John 10.27).

This is the private life that fed Jesus’ public ministry. He let the one voice of the Father drown out all other pulls in every direction.


Epilogue

The Cost of Having Priorities (or, God’s Economy Values Small Things)

But you may say, “Jesus didn’t experience the sort of world we live in today.”

It’s true. Jesus never owned a smart phone. But are we so certain that He lived this idyllic, slow, stress-free life? Look again at Mark 3.9 — Mark tells us that the crowd following Jesus was so great that He asked his disciples to go fetch a boat for him “…before they crushed him.” When was the last time you or I had that problem?

For us, the white noise of our phones, our to do lists, our jobs seems to crush us. For Jesus, it was the throngs of people literally pressing into him. What Jesus does next is staggering. Instead of using this massive platform of influence to disseminate information, he goes and selects 12 disciples, 12 (Mark 3.13–14).

This is what countercultural Christianity looks like. In a world that screams “find yourself a platform” here is Jesus living this truth, “go find yourself a people”. It was this very small (numerical) investment in a group of people that brought the gospel of Jesus to us today.

Because of the economy of the Kingdom of God, every small relationship, every small moment, can leverage a sort of influence in eternity that is impossible to truly account for this side of the resurrection.

Published by Jared Stacy

Jared is an American Pastor, writer, and PhD Candidate in Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

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