Simplicity: The Bullesye for ObedienceMonday, June 04, 2012
A favorite past time of any male member of my father's household, including my own, is shooting guns. There's this rush men often get from holding a controlled-gun-powered-weapon that's really indescribable. Those nanoseconds before pulling the trigger, so many elements must combine in order to maintain complete control and aim the ammunition exactly where you want it to go...the middle of the bullseye.
I'm not that good. I wish the bullseye were as big as the entire target! Sometimes I blame it on the gun. Well...often, I blame it on the gun. But I have good reason! It all goes back to this Luger AP9 I previously owned many years ago. A 9mm with two fifty round clips, this sucker was awesome!!! And particularly more awesome than anything else was the iron sites. They were dead accurate, and I never missed the center dot on the bullseye...ever. The firing motion and even weight distribution of the gun made it so easy to handle, and keep steady aim after each shot.
Every other gun I've had since then has been difficult to get accustomed to. I've owned a .22 caliber six shooter, a Remington .380, and a Makarov 9x18, all excellent handguns. But hitting the bullseye repeatedly seems impossible for the shakiest hand in the south. So I stick to rifles mostly, which I use during deer season. The problem there, of course, is that while deer have no bullseye, you have to actually see one to shoot one. I have been deer hunting many times over many years and have only killed two: a 7 point buck (which ran down a mountain and died...and I almost died dragging it back up), and a doe (whose skeleton I didn't find til the next season).
As I was talking to my oldest today about the subject of obedience and following Jesus, I used the bullseye analogy. But I made it simpler. I asked him to reminisce with me about our gun-slinging experiences, and particularly how difficult it was to hit the center dot of a bullseye when we were doing target practice. I then asked him to imagine what it would be like if the entire target were just one big bullseye dot. He liked that thought very much, as did I. His remark was fitting. "Dad that would be so much more simpler!" I ignored his grammatically incorrect usage of double comparatives and proceeded in explaining obedience and following Jesus...to a sixteen-year old who struggles moment-by-moment with obedience.
Obedience is rather simple. Following Jesus is very much like a giant, red bullseye dot. It's not at all like a teeny-tiny dot you've got to try to hit from three hundred yards away. It's plain, clear, obvious, big enough to hit, and observable by everyone else. Too often, my experience has been that life, lies, and demons make things too complex. Complexity means that it seems too difficult to figure out. That makes things foggy. Fogginess makes me stressful...when I'm driving in it.
Jesus has taken the stress, fogginess, and complexity out of following Him. Completely. He has made the whole thing really quite simple. To Peter He said, "Follow Me." He said the same thing to Matthew, as well as to other disciples. And guess what? They did! It was all simple, right? Jesus told them what to do. He didn't provide all the information or details because following Him is simply about doing what He said one thing at a time.
Therein lies the difficulty for too many Christians, including myself for many years. We hear what Jesus says, but then allow complexity generate fog onto the stage of our moment of decision. The fog almost always comes in the form of unanswered questions...primarily "What if...?" or "What about...?" or "What next...?" sort of questions. In those moments of fogginess, simplicity becomes suddenly lost amid the complexity of questions we feel like we must answer in order to do the simple thing Jesus told us to do.
Not all of Jesus' disciples kept it as simple as Peter and Matthew. In Luke 9:57-62, we recall the experience of three wanna-be disciples. The first guy wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went. But Jesus knew guy's heart, evidently. Based purely on Jesus' reply we can see that the guy was doing some serious finger-crossing behind his back as he boldly proclaimed his desire to follow Jesus. For this guy however, it was all about knowing ahead of time where he would sleep...and if it would be comfortable enough. But the simple call to follow Jesus begins with a simple step of trust in Him and choosing not to make things so complex, especially when it comes to simple things like sleeping arrangements.
The second guy accepted Jesus' simple command to "Come, follow Me." But there was something else he wanted to do first. He wanted to go back home and bury his father. This is first-century language for, "I wanna go back home and hang with my dad until he dies, so I'll get his inheritance. And then I can come follow You, Jesus." He made things too complex again. It was all about resources for this second guy. But the simple call to follow Jesus begins with a simple step to trust in Him and choosing not to make things so complex, especially when it comes to simple things like money.
The third guy also agreed to obey a simple command. But this guy just wanted to go home and hug his family goodbye first. Such a simple request! But Jesus saw right through it! Wasn't Jesus in favor of honoring your mom and dad, and all that? Of course. But He also knew the power of rational excuses. First they start out little and appear so innocent. But in reality they evidence a heart that has not resolved itself to take simple steps of obedience. The simple call to follow Jesus begins with a simple step to trust in Him and choosing not to make things so complex, especially when it comes to simple things like good-byes to parents.
No reservations. No holding back. No rational excuse-making. No complexities. No "What if's" or "What about...?" Not even a single "What next...?" Just hearing or reading, and obeying. Jesus' commands are not complex. He did not stutter when He gave them. He meant to be clear in His revelation to them, and clarity begins with simplicity. Follow Me. Come here. Trust Me. Give your stuff away. Go get a donkey. Hand me the fish and loaves. Fill up the water jars. Take up your sleeping bag and walk. Go wash your eyes. Love your enemies. Pray for your persecutors. Serve one another just like I did. Love your neighbor. Believe in me. Eat and drink this in remembrance of me. Listen to me and remember what I say. Bring your son here.
Jesus' commands make following Him quite easy, if we're honest. So much complexity is taken out of the equation that obedience is like aiming our live at a giant, red bullseye. We just can't miss! There's no way on earth to get it wrong! There's either doing it, or not doing it. There's obeying or disobeying. Ours is not to ask questions first, and then follow after. Ours is to follow first, and then ask questions later...although smart people generally just follow and find out that their questions are answered along the way...which is typical when you're following the smartest person in the universe.
I'm so thankful for the simplicity of Jesus' voice, and for the clarity of His commands. Like I told my son today, "If you'll just focus all your attention and energy on doing the simple little thing Jesus told you to do, you'll find that all the stress, fogginess, and complexity about discipleship flies right out the window. It's completely and totally about just deciding to do what Jesus said and then trusting Him with every single little detail that keeps you wondering and questioning." My dad used to tell me to K.I.S.S. That's short for "Keep it Simple Son." That works so well in following Jesus, doesn't it?
See also: The Gospel Really is That Simple
and: The Simple Kingdom Series
About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.