Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t think Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials are awesome? You know the one: a bearded Hemmingway-esque man in a suit, sitting at a table in some exotic locale surrounded by beautiful local women. The narrator tells of his character as grainy 8mm video of him cliff diving and bull fighting play in the background, “The police often question him just because they find him interesting”, “He's a lover, not a fighter, but he's also a fighter, so don't get any ideas".
The commercials tap into a sense of adventure and story most of us don’t experience in our own lives. We may have memories and moments of adventure but not a lifetimes worth. I’m reading a book about story right now and one of the author’s main points is that many of us don’t live a very good story. We can live a comfortable story without a lot of conflict and pretty one dimensional characters and wonder why life is so boring. I think I mostly agree with his sentiments.
But this idea of living a good story got me thinking of where Jesus fits into the picture. He is after all, the main character of the “greatest story ever told” and the center of our lives as believers. In fact one of the crazy things as Christians is that we get to enter into this ever expanding and seemingly never ending story of God as characters, each with a unique part to play…at least that’s what is supposed to happen.
I was reflecting this morning on how ‘boring’ a life with Jesus can seem and how this perception permeates both the Church and society in the West. Let’s be honest; for many people being a Christian means believing in the atonement, being as good as possible with the assurance of heaven in the end. To those on the outside looking in, being a Christian seems to be more closely intertwined with having a couple very strong political views and not getting drunk than it does with being a character in the story of Jesus. It is no wonder then, when people are not interested in talking or even thinking about Jesus. Why should they want Jesus if the story we as Christians are often telling is boring?
Think of Jesus in the Gospels, was he boring? Sure maybe in 21st century America the general consensus is Jesus was a some holier than thou dude who spoke in parables and platitudes about morality and some other stuff and definitely sounds mind numbingly dull but the Jesus of the Gospels isn’t anything like that! Do you think the disciples would have left everything so they could sit around listening to some soft-spoken guy telling them to “love the little children” while the big eyed Precious Moments cretins smiled angelically up at him? No way! Jesus was unexpected, he was exciting, he was healing people and casting out demons and arguing with the Pharisees and all the while he was claiming to be the climax of the generations long story of
And yet today the very mention of the name Jesus makes people zone out. It can make me zone out. There are weeks when I don’t understand or fully grasp the story I am in, when I forget I am actually in the story of Jesus, that I have an important part to play in the community and relationships around me. Usually those weeks are full of selfish pursuits trying to fill a sense of adventure and purpose I mistakenly think Jesus cannot fill. But then some weeks, some mornings like today I remember just how crazy it is to be a follower of Jesus. To believe that God entered into the world in human form in order to defeat death and evil once and for all, that he suffered and died, that he was fully human and fully God, that he rose from the dead, that one day he is going to return to Earth to fully rid the world of evil and heal all of Creation!? Even if you don’t believe it you have to admit it’s a pretty compelling story. And that’s just the story of Jesus; the rest of the story of God, humanity and the world offered in the Bible is just as compelling, just as mind blowing...but we often forget this…we often think of Jesus as a morality to obey, not an adventure to embark on. What’s a better story, a relationship or a set of rules?
Part of me wonders if the reason the Left Behind/Rapture theology is so popular in Western Christianity is because it offers a compelling narrative. We are going to be snatched up into heaven and then all hell is going to break lose on earth? That’s some pretty intense adventurous stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I think its all nonsense and a total misreading of Scripture but it sure is a good story. And maybe it’s because of this many people are so passionate about it. I wonder how many people think of the story of their daily lives walking as a follower of Jesus in today’s world in the same passionate way. I wonder how often I do. My guess is if I grasped the enormity of the story I was a part of, following Jesus would be infinitely more compelling and adventurous and wonderful and more alive.