There seems to be a new phenomenon where people are becoming obsessed with being a minimalist. We see this new thing of tiny homes where people see how small a space they can live in with as few amenities as possible. There are smart cars that honestly don’t look that smart. There are minimalist wallets and other things in life that many have gravitated to to be more minimalistic.
Many of these things are great and I always encourage people to be more “minimalistic’ in their lives and my wife and I have worked hard on minimizing the things that we have to maintain because it seems to simplify life. However when it comes to Christianity is there such a thing as a “Minimalist Christian”?
I recently studied through 1 John and a few verses made me consider this. In 1 John 2:2-6 John states “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
What John is saying here is that real, authentic believers are marked by their obedience to the commands of Jesus. If God has truly saved them then their desire is to please God by being obedient to the teachings and commands of Christ. This begs the question, what are the commands of Jesus? Many consider the commands of Jesus being something along the lines of the Ten Commandments. Have no other God’s before Him, have no idols, honor the Sabbath, do not lie or steal or murder or covet or disrespect your parents and so on and I would not disagree with that but think about this. There was a time when Jesus was asked what the greatest Commandment was. His response was to love The Lord your God with all your heart and soul and your mind. He then said the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Now consider how great a command these are. Paul Washer states that at no point in any believer’s life has he ever loved God with all of his heart and soul and mind and I tend to agree with him. I would also add that it is nearly impossible to love your neighbor as yourself. However these are the commands of Jesus and He adds that all of the Law is summed up in these two commands.
In modern day Christianity it seems there is a grave misunderstanding of the commands of Jesus that is spoken of in 1 John. Many in the churched culture seem to have a minimalistic attitude when it comes to somehow qualifying as a follower of Jesus. There are many that only consider the least amount of what they can do in order to somehow qualify or justify in their hearts and minds as being a “Christian”. Maybe they have walked the isle and prayed a prayer and got dunked and have not considered their growth in their faith since. Or they claim to be a church member because they attend once in awhile yet are not connected to and serving in the community of believers in that church. Or they give just enough that they don’t feel guilty but rarely give sacrificially. Maybe they will slap a fish sticker or cross or “I worship at …” on the back of their car and somehow feel ok with rarely or never openly sharing their faith. They will post a need for prayer or complain to others about sufferings but are afraid to publicly approach the Lord in prayer even in the smallest group. They complain that they are not being fed in their church or criticize the ministry yet never volunteer to help facilitate Gospel centered change.
Honestly are these the types of commands that Jesus says are ok for followers of Jesus? It seems to me that when Jesus tells us that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him it means much more than we give it credit. John seems harsh in verse 4 when he says the one that claims to know Him but does not keep His commands is a liar but it is a harsh truth that we would do well to hear. Are we lying to ourselves when we do the minimum when Jesus actually calls us to so much more?
What I see is that Jesus tells us not to strive or be happy with the minimum bet He tells us to strive for so much more. To love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves seems to be the impossible but that is the standard that Jesus calls us to strive for.
When we are struggling financially the minimum would be don’t go out and steal and that would be good. However if we take Jesus’ standards we ought to look around for those that are worse off and see how we can serve. If our brother asks us to go a mile with him the minimum is to go that mile without grumbling. Jesus however commands us to go further than just what was asked. When our enemy attacks us the minimum would be not to return with an attack. Jesus says that we are to turn and offer the other cheek.
I pray that we consider these words of John. I pray that we abide in Jesus and our heart’s desire is to keep His commands. There is no such thing as a “Minimalist Christian” according to scripture. May the Spirit help us to see the areas that we are minimal and strive for the maximum. If we KNOW Him we Will KEEP His commandments. Are we walking in the same way in which He walked?