Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
Over the years, I’ve helped several college students from church work on their writing assignments. There’s a tendency they have I try to weed out for them. I’m sure they want to make a good impression on their professors. They might be looking to up their word count as well. Whatever the reason, many look to include sesquipedalian words.
Their overdependence on long words isn’t helpful. Someone who understands the subject in discussion recognizes what they’re doing in a heartbeat. Those extra big words become clutter and even open up the possibility for greater misunderstanding–and a lower grade!
Their best bet is to keep things as simple as possible.
Explain it to a six-year-old.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everything we talk about is simple. Not at all. There’s the tension. We tend to overcomplicate the simple and oversimplify the complicated. It’s the difficult line of recognizing the basic heart of a matter and the nuance that may be associated with it.
When it comes to our shared ministry and our walk with God, Jesus is the simple and complex answer.
Years had passed for followers of Jesus. There were expectations that Christ would return soon. He had not. As more years passed, fear and doubt crept into the hearts of believers. The writer of Hebrews offered a holy reminder to those people.
The point of Hebrews is to inspire a renewed faith in Jesus. What do you need to ignite revival and renewal of heart for the church? The simple answer is Jesus. Read the book of Hebrews and that’s what you’ll find.
Now, does that simple answer make all other realities we face in the church and in our walk with God simple? Yes and no.
No, because we can disagree about the implications of our Jesus answer. Your Jesus response may lead you to certain convictions that differ from mine. How do we figure out where to go from there?
Wherever we go we’ll need patience and an appreciation for nuance.
At the same time, if you’re hoping to inspire newness in the church, it can be tempting to add on to Jesus. This takes discernment and wisdom to recognize. The addons can feel like Jesus. Indeed, they can be Jesus-y. We can build on Jesus-like things, but even that will never be the solid rock on which we can stand. We can merely have a big-word ministry.
So, we need to understand what God expects from the church enough to explain it to a child. A big part of our calling, after all, is to teach our children faith and trust in Christ. If we can’t explain it to them, is it because it’s really that complicated? Or have we wandered a little too far away from what matters most?