“Just show us how to get the answer.”
It was sort of a fun little dance. I’d encourage exasperated students to figure it out, they’d remind me that things would be so much simpler if I just showed them how to do it, I’d tell them “simpler” wasn’t the point.
Even parents got in on the act. A kid would proudly announce how mom showed her this simple trick that “always” works. And of course I’d ask why it works, and they didn’t know (or care) as long as they got the right answers. And I’d point out that the right answers were all in the back of the book so finding them wasn’t really a big deal.
The ensuing phone call or note from home usually didn’t seem to appreciate my sarcasm.
I get it. We all seek short-term solutions to long-term problems, ways to get there without actually doing the hard work. So we buy fancy bikes and pretend they’ll replace long-term training, putting in the miles, climbing the hills. Or we weave through the system and get a degree while avoiding much of the risky reading, thinking, discussing that produces real learning.
The only real shortcut is to follow the path, take the long view, stop wasting time on fad diets and magic trick training plans and formulas we don’t understand, and do the work.
Jesus knew his followers would look for formulas and shortcuts. He knew we’d try to turn His teaching into lists of rules and books filled with doctrine. He knew we’d try to place Him on our political spectrum.
So He told stories, offered general, timeless principles, and encouraged us to figure it out.
Every time we try to define Jesus, or label Him, or limit Him to some human-created doctrine or set of rules, I think He just smiles and points to one of His stories that doesn’t quite fit. He challenges us to follow Him. And when we’re confused, He listens and gently points the way.
The only real shortcut is to take the long view and do the daily work of following.