The other day, a friend of mine made a comment about an author. He wrote:
“I’ll say he’s sloppy at best when it comes to sound doctrine and theology.”
I think the first half of that thought is awesome.
I think the author he was describing is sloppy at best.
I think I’m sloppy at best.
I think you’re sloppy at best.
I think there’s not a person on the planet who isn’t sloppy at best.
The longer I’m a Christian, the more I realize how big and mysterious and boundless God is. The idea that I can remove the “sloppiness” from my limited human understanding of him is comical. The idea that, at 36 or 56 or 106, I could reach a point in my life where I have him all figured out is silly.
In anything, the Christians I know with the deepest, most mature faiths tell me, “The closer I got to God over the decades, the more I realized how very little I knew about his wonderfulness and how very desperately I needed him more than ever.”
The fear in admitting faith is sloppy is that you’ll lose all sense of truth, and everything will become relative. As if admitting you haven’t figured God out completely is a single step away from “All religions basically say the same thing. God is too big to figure out so let’s not even try. Anything goes.”
But the more we fear that extreme example and refuse to have sloppy discussions, the more we invite something poisonous into our faith – arrogance.
My friend might not have had that in his words. But others do when they draw manmade boundaries around a boundless God.
As if any of us will get to heaven and have God say, “You got it all right. Every inch of who I am was perfectly understood by you while you were alive. That time in Isaiah 55 when I said, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts,’ I meant that verse for everyone but you. You nailed it.”
Even the disciples, who lived with Jesus, were constantly getting it wrong.
I love what happens in Luke 9:
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.
I can’t help but imagine what Jesus wanted to say:
“Wait, what? What’s your solution? I’ve been preaching ‘turn the other cheek.’ And in Luke 9, or what you might call ‘Last Tuesday,’ I told you that if a town won’t welcome you, ‘shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.’ What was the solution you just recommended? Call fire down from heaven to destroy them? OK, just checking. How did you ever think that was the right response?”
And then, the verse tells us he rebuked them.
If we were honest, I think a lot of us deserve a rebuke in that same way. When we add things to Scripture, when we put works as a means to grace, when we create rules in order to feel in control, I think Jesus wants to rebuke us.
Does this mean we should not study?
Does this mean we should not call ourselves to learn theology?
Does this mean we should not sharpen one another with truth?
Does this mean there are not doctrinal truths we must hold fast to?
Does this mean there are not slippery slopes that must be avoided?
Of course not.
It means we have to be honest.
To admit that we are learning, but we are sloppy.
Fortunately, we have a God who is not.