Shared Interests

My father and two brothers were military aviators. I also applied to be a pilot in the Navy but I didn’t have the eyesight to qualify. That was fine—I’m more than pleased with the way things turned out. But I still have an interest—as a bit of a ‘wannabe’—and keep up some aviation reading. For years I even subscribed to Aviation Week, a news journal for those in the field.

What’s odd is how often I’ve crossed paths with genuine aviation or space flight specialists over the years. Dave—a Cor Deo alum—is an aviation engineer and UK friend. We’ve driven to Bristol together on a couple of occasions to attend lectures offered to the British community of aircraft engineers. I loved it!

There’s more. On one occasion my seat companion on a flight to London was the Boeing space engineer in charge of integrating the International Space Station! On another flight I was seated next to a Royal Navy officer who was exploring the question of what kind of aircraft launching device to use—if any—on two British aircraft carriers then under construction. On yet another flight I sat next to a man who owned a number of racing aircraft, including a Czech L-39 Albatross jet flown in the Reno Air Races. On each case I enjoyed a great conversation!

But what do my flying interests have to do with anything? Just this: if people share a common interest it’s natural and easy to talk about that subject. And, once discovered, social barriers quickly fade away.

Here’s a related question. What if we claim to have a profound interest in a given topic but in reality we never talk about it? And if someone raises that topic we quietly slip away? Is the issue actually important to us, or is it merely one of the “right things” we need to affirm in life?

Most readers will have guessed by now that my reflection has Jesus in view. He offers the natural point of shared interest for Christians. We worship him as God and have given our hearts to him. So it only follows that he must be the main topic of conversations among Christians . . . right?

Okay—that may be a nice theory but in practice it’s hardly the case. Try talking about him spontaneously in most church settings and things may go very quiet. Friends are far more likely to talk about local sports teams, new electronic devices, websites, movies, restaurants, the weather, or even aviation topics. I just don’t hear Jesus talked about unless it’s in a sermon or a Bible study.

I could end here. All this entry would be, then, is a guilt trip. But that’s not my point: what would that accomplish? Instead let’s consider the deeper question of how we view God. Do we realize how relevant the Triune God is to our present life and to our life to come? Have we come to grips with how attractive and fascinating he is? Have we ever heard him speak to us?

Most haven’t! At best we’ve only scratched the surface of who he is. We know this when we read the Bible. There the apostle Paul, for one, wrote in almost melodramatic terms about knowing Jesus: in Ephesians 3, Philippians 2-3, 1 Corinthians 2, and more. He was an ultimate enthusiast who assumed readers would certainly share that delight. But most of us aren’t there.

His fascination started when he first met Jesus in the road near Damascus. That meeting shaped everything about him. Even the threat of death never quenched his enthusiasm—a very clear reality in the Bible book of Acts. Paul was all about Jesus.

What that tells us is that we may be missing something. Jesus, as Paul’s experience should tell us, is an absolutely compelling personality. The apostles John, Peter, and James all had the same opinion: by the measure of their responses Jesus was as strong a presence as ever walked on earth.

What’s missing for the rest of us is exposure. If we don’t have contact with him we’re not too likely to be too impressed with him. And we won’t have reasons to talk about him with others.

This touches a Bible theme called “illumination”—the teaching that God’s Spirit awakens us to the Son’s personality in ways that startle and change us. After we have a heart-changing exposure—getting to “know” him—we start to look for others who want to talk about him. Other topics start to seem empty by comparison.

Yet for those who aren’t “there” yet—who don’t get illumination or revelation or even relationship with Jesus as more than a notion—the question comes, why not?

It might be that Jesus withholds himself from most people and only gives himself to a few select folks. But that doesn’t fit the Bible portrayal of Jesus as one who was rejected by humanity; and not the other way round. He came and gave his life to capture us.

So another possibility is that he shares himself freely but no one hears him because they find other topics and personalities more interesting. The shared interests of this life drown out the whispers of his Spirit seeking to draw us into that conversation.

This is how the Bible answers the question.

So what should we do if we don’t find Jesus interesting? Simply tell him. I’m sure he can handle it.

And then, if you’re bold, say, “But I’d like to have some lights turned on—to be able to see you and to hear you.”

Then pick up your Bible and start to read. Don’t quit anytime soon. Then come back for more. I can promise: he’ll be there, waiting!

And, after that, let’s talk—a great conversation is sure to follow!

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2 Comments

  1. Gretchen

    Thanks for this, Ron. My experience has been similar—many people even in the church don’t seem all that interested in talking about Christ. It’s mind boggling. I appreciated what you said, too, about coming to Bible reading asking the Lord for the lights to be turned on and having Him respond. Sometimes when I start a new read-through, there are very specific questions with which I’m wrestling, and sometimes new questions arise as I’m reading. And with every journey through the Bible I find new joy in the God I discover there, and my love for Him blossoms all the more. It just never, never gets boring or overly familiar. Every time reading through the Bible is a delightful discovery of the God who reveals Himself—and that’s something that’s hard NOT to talk about!

  2. R N Frost

    My experience, too. Thanks, Gretchen. Now: let’s spread the good news that our Triune God is a joy to know. And he only gets better (from our perspective!) over time.

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