Last year I received a letter from an organisation advertising an event. They were obviously hoping I would go. I didn’t go. One reason for not going was the letter. It put me off because it was badly written. It went on and on saying in far too many words what could have been said in fifty. In the end it got boring. It needed to be much more simple.
Simplicity is more important than ever in our media-saturated world. Most of us are on information overload. There’s far too much ‘stuff’ bombarding us all day long. That means that communications have to be interesting and catch our attention. But most importantly they need to be simple.
But simplicity is about so much more than communication. It’s a value. It’s a way of being. It’s an attitude of the mind and heart that human beings are crying out for in the complexity of contemporary life. It’s a value that is deeply rooted in the Christian Scriptures and perfectly modelled by Jesus Christ. For instance he took the whole of the Old Testament writings and summed it up in 2 commands: love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40). He provided a brilliantly helpful lens for us to understand the Old Testament and through which to live life.
To live simply is about knowing who you are and why you are alive. It’s about knowing what’s important and doing a few things well. This requires thought, discipline and prayer. It’s hard to live simply when you’re rushing. Thinking simply requires a slowing down. The season of Lent is a great opportunity to embrace simplicity.
The most significant simple decision I ever made was to choose to follow Christ. I know now he was calling me – drawing me into a relationship with him – but I had a choice to make. It was the best decision I’ve ever made! And that one simple decision affects everything. That’s why following Jesus is the ultimate simplicity.
Pope John XXIII understood this, which is why he said:
The older I grow the more clearly I perceive the dignity and winning beauty of simplicity in thought, conduct and speech: a desire to simplify all that is complicated and to treat everything with the greatest naturalness and clarity.
I’m speaking on this theme at a whole-church gathering of The Belfrey this afternoon. I’ll try not to speak simplistically but simply. And I will be preaching to myself as much as anyone. Because I still have much work to do here. Maybe you’re the same. But if, like me, you’re a believer, you should be confident about future progress as you’ve made the ultimate simple decision to follow Christ. That’s the best start to simplicity anyone can make. But don’t stop there.
There’s an old Shaker hymn that says:
Tis a gift to be simple, Tis a gift to be free,
Tis a gift to come down to where we ought to be.
So why don’t we use this season of Lent to slow down to live and think more simply? It really is good to be simple.