Do you remember the story in the life of Jesus about a young Jewish ruler, wealthy, determined and obviously driven to pursue matters of personal spirituality? He humbled himself enough to ask a question of this renegade Rabbi.
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What an opening for any evangelist or well-meaning Christian concerned for the eternal destiny of their target audience. Isn’t this the question of questions?
Look at what Jesus did not give this young man, even though the text goes out of its way to explicitly tell the reader that Jesus loved him. There is no sinner’s prayer, no tract, no formula, no invitation. In fact, initially it seems that Jesus completely ignores his question and asks his own.
“Why do you call me good? There is only One who is good and that is God!”
Certainly Jesus is not trying to say, “I am not good.” He asks the question as an invitation into deeper relationship, to challenge the young man to think beyond performance to something deeper. Effectively Jesus is asking,
“Little brother, do you see good in me? Is that why you addressed me as good teacher? Because if you do, then you are acknowledging that God is in me for there is only One who is the originator of all good and that is God.”
Anywhere you find good in this world you are witnessing the active expression of the activity of God and human participation in the life of God.
Religious, performance-driven folk find this difficult to swallow.
The rich young ruler is religious and performance driven and so doesn’t even listen to the question. How often that has been me, involved in a conversation but not allowing their questions to challenge how and what I think. I listen to protect my agenda and not truly ‘hear’ the other, or to step into the invitation that good questions offer, to reconsider my beliefs and challenge my own internal paradigms? How often my prayers have been, “God, please do this or that,” or “What should I do to…” and God responds, “Let’s talk about ‘who’ you are.
Recently, Kim and I traveled south at the invitation of Oprah Winfrey to participate in a Super Soul Sunday interview which aired this week.
Both she and her staff were warm, affectionate and embracing. People often reflect their bosses, and this was no exception.
During the interview Oprah listened intently, engaged enthusiastically, leaned into the conversation, and was nothing but kind. She had a child-like interest in everything we talked about and was completely genuine in her questions and responses.
I want to be more like Oprah.
I want every person that I meet to feel heard and affirmed. Every encounter becomes a two-way street. It’s like my friend Ronny who says, “In our conversation I don’t want anything that is precious to you at the beginning to be less precious to you at the end.”
Kim and I had a wonderful, heart-affirming experience and I walked away encouraged, embraced and grateful that there are incredible human beings like Oprah in this world. What she does is good, and I know where good originates.
Here a clip of the interview (link to the entire thing below, as well), if you missed it. I hope listening to it blesses you as much as participating in it did me!