We live in an age of strange contradictions. While it would appear that narcissism and obsession with “self” are at an all time high, avoidance of responsibility seems to be just as prevalent. The messages deeply embedded in our culture seem to be “It’s all about you.” until the spotlight of scandal or misbehavior shines on an individual. Curiously the messages then shift to it being all about prejudice, misogyny, privilege, poverty, upbringing or discrimination.
As is always the case, if we look and listen carefully, Jesus has something profound to say about this. Actually, in this case we don’t have to dig very deep since his profound wisdom in this situation is right there on the surface if we have eyes to see.
Each of the interactions noted here are worthy of thorough examination and reflection but to conserve space they are only summarized. Furthermore, they are only a small sample of many other similar interactions, which can be found throughout the gospels. Spend some time considering the following:
Rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22)
A very well known interaction between a young man who had great possessions and wealth but desperately wanted eternal life. The exchange with Jesus was very direct and personal. No examination of his upbringing, circumstances or intellectual examination of options from Jesus. The key statements were:
“If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments…” (v 17)
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven..” (v 21)
Calling down fire (Luke 9:54-56)
While visiting a Samaritan village with Jesus, his disciples James and John had the brilliant idea to call down fire from heaven to consume the village because the people there did not welcome him. Apparently, they wanted to emulate the revered prophet Elijah who had done a similar thing to the prophets of Baal, his spiritual opponents. In Jesus’ rebuke of James and John he included this:
“You don’t know what kind of spirit you are…” (v 55)
“The man by the pool (John 5:1-9)
This story is of a man who had been an invalid for 38 years and was lying next to the Pool of Bethseda, hoping someone would place him into the healing waters. Jesus interaction with him is very typical of other healings in that the person seeking the healing talks about their horrific circumstances and the frustration they have had trying to find healing. Jesus asks a key question that is always relevant:
“Do you want to get well? (v 6)
Who is Jesus? (Luke 9:18-21)
In one of the most famous discourses between Jesus and his disciples, he asks them who the people say that he is. Various answers come back such as John the Baptist or Elijah. Then Jesus gets very personal:
“But what about you, who do you say that I am…” (v 20)
This perhaps is the most profound of the many interactions Jesus has with his followers, seekers, opponents and persecutors. It is his consistent approach to almost every situation he encounters. It is never about the circumstances, it is always all about you. Paraphrased another way “What are you going to do about it?”
I am poor – True but what are you going to do about it?
I am a person of colour – True but what are you going to do about it?
I was raised by an abuser – True, but how will you live your life?
I am uneducated and not intelligent – Maybe, but what then will you do?
I was born into privilege – True, but what will you do with that opportunity?
In this day and age we live in a time where we hear, see and read massive amounts of information through our smart phones, electronic devices and computer screens. We love to analyze and theorize about “root causes”, “trends” and “societal and global forces” supposedly beyond our control. While obsessively focused on making everything about “me” we also go to extreme lengths to avoid taking any responsibility for our present circumstances. Enter Jesus who consistently says that is not the case and in reality it really is all about you.
Take a long, hard look at your life. While how you got here and the circumstances you are in may be very true and relevant there is only one key question:
What are you going to do about it?