Apparent Pilgrim - A Divine Center

I’m thinking through the concept of Christian simplicity. And before I dig into my old text books or read contemporary, idealistic articles about it I am reflecting on the gospel and moments when, in the Bible’s record, Christian simplicity was displayed for us in an exemplary way. While I can think of many things that Jesus said which will assist us in the pursuit of simplicity, discovering an example is a bit more elusive. I have unearthed at least 2. And it seems to me that one relies upon the other. So, I begin with the one relied upon.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”   Luke 10:38-42
It’s those last two sentences that clinch this for me. Martha is only doing what is expected. Mary is doing what is right. Martha is worried and upset. Mary has chosen what is better. This to me is a dynamic picture of simplicity. Martha and Mary have innumerable things to worry about.  But, there is only one thing that is essential: inner clarity resulting in outward singularity. At least for this moment, Mary was living in ultimate simplicity. The world had preset expectations for her. (See John 12 for another look at Mary’s inner clarity. In that case one of the disciples speaks against Mary’s focused act of worship.) Women were expected to act like Martha. Society had a list for Martha and Mary. But Mary had sharp personal focus that cut through the confusion of worldly expectations and lead her to the feet of Jesus.

Christian simplicity should exemplify that kind of clarity. Christian simplicity should clearly separate the things of the kingdom of God from the things that move us away from God.  Then, simplicity should move us in kingdom cadence toward God, free from distraction.

Listen to what Richard Foster says about the inward reality of simplicity.

"The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style. Both the inward and outward aspects of simplicity are essential. We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live. To attempt to arrange an outward life-style of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism.
Simplicity begins in inward focus and unity. It means to live out of what Thomas Kelly called 'The Divine Center.' Kierkegaard captured the nucleus of Christian simplicity in the profound title of his book, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing.
Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly. Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone, because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance, not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others. We join the experience that Richard E. Byrd recorded in his journal after months alone in the barren Arctic: 'I am learning ... that a man can live profoundly without masses of things.’”
(OK, so that was a quote from one of my old text books.  You got me.)

This is what Jesus taught us in that early sermon on the side of a easily sloping mount, “seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.” The “all these things” that Jesus referred to were clothing, food, and livelihood. (Matthew 6) I find myself quite caught up in providing food, clothing, and things for life. I find myself quite up tight about the things that are expected of me by other people. I find myself short on singularity, clarity, and inward simplicity, and long on worry.   

Simplicity must begin: inside. My outer life can be pared down as an act of symbolic poverty designed to impress others or accomplish some noble earth-friendly, budget driven objective. But if I am to be delivered from the viciously ego-driven, profit obsessed tyranny of fallen living, I must have a simple soul, centered on Christ. This divine center is the only escape from my own insane attachment to things and my oppressive lust for affluence which, together, deceive me into thinking that security is found in property, power, and prestige. Then I am free to live, simply fulfilled to sit with Jesus, full of Him and filled with His grace.

I like the way that the Message paraphrases Romans 12:2.
Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remake you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed. Thus you will prove in practice that the will of God is good, acceptable to him and perfect.
di-vine:  adj.  - addressed, appropriated, or devoted to God
cen-ter: n. - the core or middle of anything


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