If it weren’t so sad, the way some people react to specific words would be funny. As soon as an expression becomes exalted to the level of “buzz-word” (which is itself a “buzz-word”) others find something wrong with the way it’s being used. The idea of “being relevant” falls into this category. Even so, I dare to suggest that if we want to be like Jesus, we need to be relevant. Specifically, our words and actions need to be relevant in the relationships in which we engage.
When Jesus spoke, He brought truth and wisdom into the everyday lives of His listeners. In his greatest recorded sermon (Matthew 5-7), He touched on many areas which were real in the experience of His audience (and it doesn’t matter if we limit ourselves to those with Him on the mountainside, or all who have read this sermon since). How many of these things are relevant to your experience: values, sorrow, conflict and its resolution, marriage, attitudes (particularly as expressed by calling others names), lust, persecution, how to treat bullies, charity, prayer, money, and materialism.
Too many of us are unaware of how irrelevant our words and actions are in relation to the real needs of those around us. We stay within the range of what is socially comfortable for everyone, not probing into the areas where the real needs are. Jesus was not like that. When some men brought their bed-ridden paralytic friend to Jesus to be healed, He saw that genuine faith had prompted the action. But He went beyond their expectations, declaring the man’s sins forgiven as well as healing him.
I’d go further and say that many of us are unaware of how relevant Jesus words and actions are in relation to our own needs. We live at such a superficial level, mostly concerned with comfort and pleasure, that we fail to realize that when we go to Jesus because we have something we consider to be a problem, He sees beyond that to the greater underlying issue and says, as He did to the paralytic “Your sins are forgiven.”
One of the things that made Jesus’ ministry relevant was that He started where the people were and moved on from there. He usually began conversations at that everyday superficial level I just mentioned and then guided it to deeper levels.
In His encounter with the Samaritan woman, the interaction begins with His physical need for a drink of water, moves to the social differences between them, to the realms of morality, spirituality, and worship. In the end, she and many of the other people from her village, came to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah - the One who would bring deliverance from the bondage to sin.
The challenge for us today is a double one. Firstly, are we willing to move beyond the superficial realm of physical and emotional concerns to address the spiritual issues in our lives that matter to Jesus? Secondly, do we recognize Him as the One who has the power to deliver us from our personal slavery to sin? As we acknowledge who He is and allow Him to direct the conversation, we’ll discover what “being relevant” really looks like.
© July 2009