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Simple Theology, Simple Life

By Tim Hartzell

Theology is religious theory. It is a school of thought or a system of belief that contains the body of rules, ideas, and principles that we apply to the topic of God and the meaning of life. If you’re tempted to stop reading after that terribly mundane opening sentence, please don’t. This article may just help to clear up the whole topic of theology and the meaning of life. Stick with me.
Theology is important because belief results in action. Once you believe something is true, it will guide your decision-making. This is why theology (what you believe) is so important to life.
In the Christian world, we spend a lot of time developing and defending a vast array of theologies. We have theologies on God, good, evil, sin, salvation, baptism, communion, creation, death, resurrection, heaven - frankly, the list is miserably long, often nauseating, and not very motivating. All of our theologies are somewhat useful, but only when immersed in the most important theology of all. What theology is that? It is the theology of love. Let me explain:
Love is all that matters. (See Galatians 5:6, I Corinthians 13, I John 4:7-21, John 13:35). Boil all theological debates down and what you will find left in the pot is love. And that’s not just true in theology; it is also true in life. The fact of the matter is that theology and life consist of the same core element – everything boils down to love. That makes sense because God is love. See, it’s not very complicated. Well, at least until you realize that love defies explanation. Understand that and you’ll stop wasting time arguing about theology. I’m just sayin’.
Love is weird. It makes us goofy, causing us to do things that make no sense. My hunting friends will completely understand why I focus my deer hunting energy on the two weeks of the year we call the “rut”. When big bucks are in love, the hunting is great! Trophy bucks are invisible. Were it not for trail cameras, we wouldn’t even know they exist. Their incredible sense of smell and their ability to become completely nocturnal protects them for 96% of the year. But for two glorious weeks every fall, even the wariest of bucks will succumb to twitterpation. When a lovesick buck is following a very ready doe, he will throw all caution to the wind. Why? The answer is simple: love.
I am certain that one of you is ready to send me an email and complain that I am guilty of anthropomorphism. Whoever you are, don’t bother. Of course a buck deer is not “in love”. But twitterpation has the same effect on men and God. Love defies explanation. That fact should keep all of us very humble when we are tempted to beat each other up with our sophisticated man-made theologies.
Here is the deepest and most profound theology you will ever read: love is risk. When you accept that basic truth, your theology and your life will become one seamless unit. The result: simplicity.
Listen, when your theology and your life don’t match, it is confusing and complicated. For many people, the answer is to drop theology. Trouble is, when you do that, life doesn’t make sense. Peace happens when we get theology and life on the same page. And the only way to do that is to make love the core element.
Love and risk go hand in hand because love requires that we relinquish control. A controlled relationship is not a love relationship. Love cannot be taken or demanded; it must be given and received. That truth means that anyone who gives and receives love is vulnerable to risk, pain and regret.
In Genesis 6:6, we read this heart-wrenching statement, “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” If that statement results in theological difficulty for you, it is because you have not developed a proper theology of love. To enjoy love, God took risk.
Yes, my friends, the all-powerful God of the universe chose to cede control of His creation so that He could enjoy love. Does that sound crazy? If so, then you are beginning to develop a healthy theology of love.
When people ask me why God created the world if He knew that bad things could happen, my answer is simple: love.
And since God made you in His image, you also have the desire to enjoy love. The simple fact is this: anything you are passionate about will add risk to your life. Love and risk go hand in hand.
You started dating. You got married. You had a baby or adopted a child or became a foster parent. Why would you take such risks? The answer is simple: love. And friends, even though it may open us to deep pain or even regret, experiencing love is worth the risk. Alfred Lloyd Tennyson understood this simple theology when he declared, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
When they asked Jesus to boil down all of the commands to one core element, His answer was simple: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” And then He added, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The next time someone wants to argue about theology with you, ask them this question, “How is your theology helping you to love God and people today?” If they can’t answer that question, change the conversation to the weather. You’ll both be better off.
If your theology begins and ends with love, you’re on solid ground. Simple theology, simple life.