The Christian Life in a Nutshell

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Ephesians 1:15-16

The phrase "in a nutshell" means something like "in a very brief summary" or "in very few words." Some scholars trace the English use of this phrase to William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. In Act 2, Scene 2, Hamlet is telling his friends that Denmark feels like a prison. He adds, "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams." Yet, other scholars find evidence for a similar use of nutshell among classical authors who wrote centuries before Shakespeare.

No matter the precise origin of the phrase, we understand its meaning. So what if someone were to ask you, "In a nutshell, what is the Christian life?" How might you answer?

I don't believe there is only one, simple "in a nutshell" summary of the Christian life since it can be rightly seen from a number of perspectives. But, if you were asked to summarize your life in Christ, you might take the lead from Paul in Ephesians 1:15. In this verse, he mentions two core qualities in the lives of the Christians who are reading his letter: faith and love. If you had to put the Christian life in a nutshell, you couldn't do much better than this: faith and love.

In fact, Paul often joins faith and love together in his letters when he is summarizing the essence of the Christian life (for example, Gal. 5:6; Col. 1:4-5). Sometimes he includes hope as well (for example, 1 Cor. 13:13. Don't worry. Paul will get to hope in Eph. 1:18).

Paul introduced love in Ephesians 1:4, when he referred to God's love in choosing us as his own people. Verse 15 is the first use of love in reference to human action. Moreover, here is the first place the word "faith" shows up in Ephesians (pistis in Greek). I would suggest, therefore, that we pause and reflect on these two, in-a-nutshell qualities of the Christian life. In the days to come, I will reflect on faith and love and their centrality to our lives. In the meanwhile, let me encourage you to think about what faith and love mean to you.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: If you were to put the Christian life in a nutshell, would you include faith and love? What other candidates might there be for an in-a-nutshell description of the Christian life? To what extent are faith and love central to your life?

PRAYER: Gracious God, there is no doubt in my mind that faith and love are essential in the life of your people. Help me, therefore, to grow in my understanding and experience of faith and love. May I learn to trust you more deeply and consistently. May I learn how to love in the way you have loved me.

Even today, may my faith in you guide my life and may I love others with your love. Amen.