I was watching Return of the Jedi this morning over my bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and crasins. I had started it last night, got sleepy, and went to bed, so I just picked up where I left off. It was the part where Luke talks to Yoda and then to Ben Kenobi. As I was watching Yoda, literally on his death bed, I realized that his parting words were not much more than Jedi fundamentals. Things like,
- “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”
- “A Jedi’s strength flows from The Force.”
- “Beware the dark side.”
These are just a few of the fundamentals, the basics, that Yoda taught to his Jedi students for 800 years. These were the thing he felt important to pass on to the last of the Jedi.
The basics are important. The basics are at the core of any given area of life. People who can master the basics are usually very good at what they do. When they veer from these basics they may gain in some areas, but they risk straying from what it is they once were into being something else. There is also the temptation to change the definition of a thing by changing its fundamentals. (Hence the Sith.)
I’ve been reading a book about church history. I admit, it’s one of the weaker areas of my already limited knowledge base. As I learn more about the 1st and 2nd century church I realize that the fundamentals of the faith have always been under attack. People have been trying to redefine what it means to be a Christian, from both inside and outside the church, for nearly 2,000 years.
- Who can be saved: Jews only? If gentiles, do they have to be circumcised? (Acts 10, Galatians)
- The reality of resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15)
- Salvation by works, faith, or both? (Romans and James)
- Gnostic issues like the nature of sin, the nature of God and consequently Jesus. (1 John)
- The authority of scripture, both Old and New Testaments.
- The afterlife. Heaven, Hell, soul sleep, annihilationism, universalism.
Does any of this sound familiar? Discussions, argument, knock-down drag-outs, and burnings at the stake have been happening over these things for a very long time. Now we find ourselves in a culture where people can define or redefine anything they want, anyway they want, and it must be acknowledged, respected, and protected. “Your fundamentals are yours, my fundamentals are mine, and that’s the way it should be.” (Self contradictory statement? Why yes, yes it is.)
We have fundamentals in sports, fundamentals in business, fundamentals in math and language. We need fundamentals in those areas. If we need them there, how much more so in areas like ethics, morality, human rights, and truth? These are the things that define how we interact with one another on every level from one-on-one to nation-with-nation.
I would like to narrow my focus to those who claim the label Christian, Christ-follower, disciple, believer, whatever. This may sound overly simplistic these days, but Jesus said things. He said things that meant and mean things. Specific things with specific meanings. Some of them we might like, others we might not. But that doesn’t mean we get to adhere only to the things we like and redefine the things we don’t like into something that works for us. That would be like only acknowledging and operating by the parts of your bank statement that you like and ignoring the rest. Wouldn’t it be nice to live only by the deposits? Obviously that isn’t reality.
What did Jesus say about Heaven and Hell? What did He say about relationships and marriage? What did He say about our priorities? What did He say about handling money? What did He say about politics? What did He say about the future? Whatever He said is reality. We need to conform to that, not make that conform to us. That may sound confining and narrow minded, but the truth is that it is actually very liberating. As you develop these fundamentals, as you give yourself over to the Holy Spirit to work in and through you, you will find yourself growing and changing. You will find yourself being and example of the change you want to see in the world around you. You will find your life looking more and more like Jesus’ life. “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.” It is that simple.
May The Force be with you.