By: Amanda Samuel (aka Lil’ Mandy)
I spent the last week in Jacksonville, Florida working with CAM and 2nd Mile ministries, a Christian community development organization that works to see the Gospel transform lives within the Brentwood neighborhood. If you’ve ever looked at certain people and thought, “There. That’s it, that’s what Christianity is”, that’s how I feel about the people that work at 2nd Mile. They live out the Gospel in a tangibly needed way, and it’s an incredible opportunity to partner with them for at least one week every year.
As a Christ-follower, it’s easy to go on a trip like this and feel like it’s just another one of those “things that every Christian should do”, right up there with journaling and reading Crazy Love ten times over. But I think in doing this, we tend to make following Jesus a lot more complicated than it actually is.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying missions trip or reading books are irrelevant or unnecessary by any means. I fully believe that we were created to do good works, to proclaim God’s glory out of the grace we’ve been given, and to take part in building the kingdom of God here on earth in any way He allows us to. These things are good, and they are necessary. But I do think that sometimes these things can cause us to lose focus on the simplicity of the Gospel.
In John 9, Jesus sees a man who has been blind since birth. To be born blind is an uncommon event, and Jesus’ disciples assume that either this man or his parents must have done some terrible sin for him to have had to endure this extreme hardship. Jesus answers,
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” [John 9:3-5]. There are a lot of bold statements in this text, but what exactly does he mean by “we must do the work of him who sent me”?
If you flip back a couple chapters to John 6, we find that the disciples have wondered the same thing. “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” [John 6:28-29].
I’ll be honest with you. I had to read over this passage multiple times because I thought I was missing something. I cross-referenced it, Googled it, looked up the Greek text behind it. All this in an attempt to make the passage more complex, to make it more “godly”, to make it more relevant; to make it more. Everything in me wants to fight against what this passage is actually saying and break it down into an easy to follow, 5-step process. But the reality is that the radical simplicity of Jesus’ answer forces me to confront my to-do list approach to Christianity and rethink the way I live. The simplicity of Jesus’ answer makes me uncomfortable because it does not fit into a neat little box of my life, and instead requires much more of me than a checklist ever could. It requires me to trust everything I am to the life and teachings of a Jewish carpenter who lived, died, and was raised to life over 2000 years ago and sometimes it’s just much easier to replace that with tangible steps that I can feel good about. But ultimately, that isn’t what it means to do the work of God.
The work of God is this – to believe in the one he sent. That’s it. I have nothing more to add on to this, no deep insight or analysis, because the beauty of the Gospel lies in its simple accessibility to all who would believe. Everything else we do as those who claim to follow Christ should come from believing and trusting that Jesus is who he said he is as the Son of God, the coming Messiah, the risen King.