I got to see the Ragamuffin movie this weekend. It's the story of Rich Mullins life - a life that I was too young to remember or appreciate in real time, but also a life that has strongly impacted me in the past 15 years. I highly recommend the movie to... yeah, everyone. It's gonna be on DVD in Walmart for a limited time next month.
I basically cried through the whole movie, not because it was sad, but because so much of it resonated with me. My friend Pam and I were talking about it last night, and wondering about the paradox of his message that was so simple and so difficult: Believe that Jesus really does love you - he even likes you. If that is all the gospel is, then it sounds really simple. Just believe he loves you! But "knowing" and "believing" are two different things, and when you zoom in and look closely at how that belief plays itself out in life, it is so difficult. Confession: it is amazingly, ridiculously hard to believe Jesus loves me when I face each day with pain and weakness and dependency on people for tedious and critical things all day long, and lies constantly trying to attack my mind about loneliness and the limits and conditions of love. And I'm sure you have things in your life too that make it hard to believe He loves you. It would be easier to believe if everything was perfect and right in the world, but I think He wants us to believe it regardless of what happens to us and around us. His love isn't contingent on anything except His steadfast, unchanging character. It's a truth that is slippery - hard to hold on to, hard to really grasp. But in the workout it is to try to grasp it, I think we become stronger and steadier in our identity as his children.
Pam asked, "If it is so hard for us to believe in His love, what hope do we have of helping others believe it?" And I have been struggling with that question today. It certainly changes the concept of evangelism for me. "Just believe Jesus loves you" starts to sound in my head like a munchkin voice saying "Follow the yellow brick road!" At first, the yellow brick road is obvious and simple, so confidence rises as the traveller repeats the instructions - oh I can do this! And then the road gets confusing and dangerous, and things off the path are distracting and more exciting, and before you know it, the basic instructions are difficult to remember and follow and believe in. But the instructions haven't changed - the truth stays the same.
I don't think anyone who initially chooses to believe in Christ's love has any idea how hard it will be to keep believing. But the incredible thing is that at the same time, no one has any idea how beautiful and powerful and overwhelming it is when we do. We just need to choose to take that first step of belief, and then the next, and then the next... and let Him take us deeper and deeper into the understanding of his love for us.