The Apparent Pilgrim - 1 Simplicity Defined

Like the word "love", everyone seems to have a personalized definition of the word, "simplicity."  Since we talked about it on Sunday as part of our discussion of LIVING THE BLESSED LIFE, I thought it might serve well to plumb a little more deeply into the subject here.

Answers.com gives us the following definitions of the word simplicity:

  • The property, condition, or quality of being simple or uncombined.
  • Absence of luxury or showiness; plainness. 
  • Absence of affectation or pretense.
  • Lack of sophistication or subtlety; naivet√©.
  • Lack of good sense or intelligence; foolishness.
  • Clarity of expression.
  • Austerity in embellishment.
Wikipedia Gives us this description of the ideal of simplicity as a lifestyle:
Simplicity is a theme in the Christian religion. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God is infinitely simple. The Roman Catholic and Anglican religious orders of Franciscans also strive after simplicity. Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) practice the Testimony of Simplicity, which is the simplifying of one's life in order to focus on things that are most important and disregard or avoid things that are least important.
Current culture has made simplicity very popular (in some circles) as an effort to rescue the planet.  There are many movements to this affect.  However, Christian simplicity is never an end.  It is a means.  Christians simplicity is a means to aid us in the renewal of the closeness with God that is best represented in the life described to us in the Garden of Eden.  When, before the fall, mankind experienced the ideal relationship with God.  As Genesis puts it, "they felt no shame."  God was creator, source, and judge in the garden. Adam and Eve had clear roles and unencumbered relationship with one another and with God.  The garden life was a simple life (not easy, necessarily).  Not because it was boring and they had nothing to do.  Not because it was empty and they had nothing to possess.  It was simple because it was clear.  Everyone knew their role, their reason, their relationship.  All parties involved had clarity and closeness with one another.  The Christian habit of simplicity is a means to aid us in regaining that clarity and closeness.

Since the fall from garden living, mankind has had an ever-growing propensity toward complexity.  We plan, scheme, prepare, implement all kinds of activity for ourselves, looking to "gain" blessing (soul-deep happy fulfillment).  And all of our schemes and plans fail to provide a sustaining joy.  So, we move on to plan and scheme for more acquisitions and accomplishment to provide that sense of blessing that we are missing.  All the while, adding layer and layer of complexity to our lives.  New responsibilities, new goals, new debts and obligations, new contracts, new activities on the agenda... And our minds are so cluttered with ideals of blessing that clutter and complicate life through the acquisition of things, money, and accolades, that many of us never experience soul-deep happy fulfillment.  Because we are less clear about who we are, who God is, and how to relate to one another and to God in shameless relationship.

But, Jesus entered the realm of His creation to bring the Kingdom of God.  And on a hillside in Palestine he delivered a sermon describing a lifestyle of decluttered objectivity.  One in which principles long accepted by humans as wise and right are turned upside down and backwards in order to uncover simplicity and truth beneath the surface of things.  (See Matthew 5, 6, & 7 - an easy read for a simple evening at home.)  It is clear that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom that has been redeemed from the human philosophies that rule the fall from garden living.  It is clear that redemption is a re-establishment of garden relationships.  It is clear that simple living is the best environment for kingdom living.  Christian simplicity is a means to aid us in our pursuit of the communion presence of God which was best experienced in garden living.  Blessed living in its truest definition.

In an unfolding experience of inspiration from God's Spirit I have been given a fresh vision.  I see in front of me a road to travel.  It is a road that seems a bit rocky at first, but a few feet ahead of where I stand the road both becomes level and straight.  However, just as it does it fades from my view.  I do not know where exactly this road will take me or what the journey will look like, but I know it is my road.  I know I will know what I need to know as I travel.  I know it is the kingdom road for me.  I know that I will not journey alone, but in closeness with God and with my fellow travelers.  I know that this journey will take me into clarity and closeness and that it begins with simplicity.  And so, I am inviting you travel with me on this road.  I will begin a new blog series on the idea of Christian simplicity.  I hope that it will be a discussion with your input as you travel along side me.  I hope that together we can take hold of a life a clarity and closeness, "seeking first the kingdom of God."  Look for installments at the end of each week.


Sara March 4, 2011 at 4:03 PM  

That is an echo of my heart Bruce, but you can put it into the words I can't find!!! I will be excited to read you new blog and I pray that God will bless your keyboard so the words flow to help us all on our roads in this life.

Scott March 5, 2011 at 11:39 PM  

This is good. I am not sure just what Christian simplicity means for everyone but the pursuit seems to be worth it.

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