“What does Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ have to do with anything? Will I ever use this? Does this literature stuff matter at all?” My questions regularly flummoxed my high school English teachers. Convinced my classmates had the same questions, I voiced them regularly.
Five years and an English degree later, I stood before a group of high school freshmen teaching English literature. Life’s irony is laughable. Convinced they’d have the same questions, I tried to head them off daily, answering before they could ask.
I sought to convey the relevance to their world. I invoked “Fight Club” and magazine ads. We discussed what they watched on TV or read in print. This stuff matters, and it touches all areas of life, I’d contend. Reading literature teaches us to read the world, to understand communication, ideas, symbols, beauty and narrative.
Some eventually bought into it. At least their term-ending essays on, “What did you learn this year?” said so.
It is the same with Jesus.
A barista I know sat down with me while I used his coffee shop for an office.
“So you’re into Jesus, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah. Yeah, I am.”
Because I’m convinced Jesus can be a lot, but not merely cool, I asked, “What do you think about him?”
“I like Jesus,” he said, his voice trailing off, hoping to end the talk. I dropped it.
Cool? Cool as in “far out,” maybe. Cool as in “just another chill dude”? No. He doesn’t allow room to merely be cool.
Have you read what he said? He said the poor are blessed. We hate poverty. We look the other way when the poor to beg on our streets. We don’t want to deal with them.
Jesus said love your enemies. We hate our enemies. And if we can’t destroy them, we at least want them agreeable. He said to take the place of least honor. We want all the honor we can secure for ourselves, because we know no one else will for us.
Jesus cannot be cool by our standards. Because everything he says matters if it’s true. It touches and demands access to all areas of our lives: time, money, career, sexuality, relationships, thoughts, motives, words, hopes and heart.
As literature teaches us to look for meaning, to seek out answers, it offers us indispensable tools for life. It is relevant. Jesus teaches us all the above, and he confronts every critical issue we face. Now that’s relevant.
Does Jesus matter?
How do his words affect you if they're true?
What's Jesus' most challenging exhortation? Is it relevant to you?
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