Originality is a compelling value. It is in our core, part of the image of God we were formed in. But it is possible that originality, creativity, is not the highest value. In some things, fidelity – faithfulness – may be higher.
Paul’s last letter, written near the end of his life as a maker of disciples (apprentices), is full of this language of faithfulness when it comes to teaching. Paul tells Timothy to follow the teaching outline Paul used. Paul provides a mentoring model: “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Paul grounds the model in living, not just words: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” And Paul reminds Timothy that his faith was learned from his mother and grandmother and is rooted in all of scripture.
But this idea of fidelity of teaching is not original to Paul. That would undermine the value. He was merely echoing, in his own way, the last words of his leader who said, “make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded.”
Everything is new to people who haven’t ever learned it. It’s when we hear the same thing repeatedly that we crave something new. Particularly if we don’t see evidence that the words are livable. Especially if we want to avoid living them. We add requirements. We reduce options. We focus on bits and ignore perspective.
When originality becomes mere novelty or sheer destruction, it’s not creative. Then, perhaps fidelity becomes the most original thing. Core truths, lived simply.