“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:37-38)
I enjoy studying theology. Somehow calling considering the things of God a “hobby” seems wrong, but it is something I greatly relish doing when not spending time pursuing my worldly vocation. (Perhaps “avocation” would be a better word.) My personal library includes dozens of theological volumes, ranging from works intended for popular audiences to thicker tomes full of technical language. During what sometimes seems like a different life I even completed eighteen credits of formal study in systematic theology via distance learning. My wife and I have found great joy in reading, studying, and discussing a variety of theological works, both between ourselves and among friends. Enthralled as we were with studying the deep things of God, for the longest time we simply could not understand why more of our fellow churchgoers could not or would not find time for such study. Could they really be so disinterested?
In the past I have written here about our long period of childlessness, and God’s blessing upon us in bringing our little boy into our home through adoption. While childlessness was a tremendous burden and sadness for us, in retrospect we are thankful for the long period of our adult and married lives that were spent without a child, as without the relatively large amount of free time we had the reading and study that have brought us to our current places in our understandings and lives as Christians might not have been possible. As our boy became increasingly mobile and active, we came to understand just why our peers did not spend the hours in reading and study that we did—they didn’t have time! This might seem obvious to you readers with children, but we were oblivious. Or at least I was.
Between having a child in the home and now having a job which demands somewhat more time than did my previous position, in the past four years I have been reduced from devouring large theological volumes in short order to squeezing in a bit of reading here and there whenever possible. At the moment I’m chipping away—often ten pages or so at a time—at The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Zondervan) by Michael Horton (b. 1964). At the rate I’m going, it will be next year before I finish. And that’s okay. While theological study is edifying, enjoyable, and important at some level for every Christian, we are, thankfully, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by how many hours we spend studying or any other work (Ephesians 2:8-10). James tells us that “pure and undefiled” religion is marked by service to God and others and living according to His commandments (James 1:27)—he says nothing about spending multiplied hours in the study. Christ invites us to come to Him and rest in His finished work, and what a joy it is to do so! (Matthew 11:28-30)
There is nothing wrong with enjoying deep reading and study, and perhaps one day when Brody is older and things at work settle down a bit I’ll be able to resume my previous pace. I certainly hope so. In the meantime, I’ll encourage the eager young and childless Christians that might be reading this to regard your fellow believers with charity, not with judgment. Those seemingly disinterested congregants may be doing the best they can, holding simply and tightly to the simple Gospel and God’s promise in Christ that all who call upon Him will be saved (Romans 10:13). Don’t judge those folks or try to impress them with your knowledge. Instead, love them, pray for them, and get to know them. You might just find that by believing simply and seeking to live according to God’s commandments in the midst of hectic and stressful lives they have actually far excelled you in the things that really matter. They’re probably even patiently enduring your know-it-all attitude, confident that our Lord will have you grow out of it.
And having had that same bad attitude before, I am thankful that God forgives all that come to him in repentance, and that His people are marked by that same forgiving spirit.