Jesus: Introvert, Part 2

“Blake just doesn’t say much.” I must have heard my mother say this 20 times about my taciturn nephew. Indeed, Blake is not a big conversationalist. He’s not one for big parties with loads of different people. He hangs out with a few friends, and actually has conversations with them, which would surprise my mother. Blake, unlike the extrovert Simon Peter, who we considered yesterday, is almost certainly an introvert.

When Jesus was calling disciples, He knew He would soon be telling them to

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. –Matthew 28:19-20

Doesn’t it make sense that, knowing He would give them such an instruction and depend on them to carry the good news to far-flung people and places, he would pick extroverts like Peter? Perhaps, but as Susan Cain’s book Quiet explains, extroverts are not the only ones who can get things done. If she is right about how introverts and extroverts can complement each other, then we should expect that Jesus would have selected some introverts for His team. I want to suggest that we need look no further than John to find such a follower.

Now before I make my case, I’d like to take up a couple of details that would seem to argue against John as an introvert. In Luke 9:54, brothers James and John ask Jesus if they should call down fire on an unfriendly village. Is that the action of an introvert? This question misunderstands the nature of introverts. They are not always passive or gentle or silent. I can easily imagine John talking with a close friend, his own brother, and then, after consideration, bringing this idea to Jesus. The same sort of thing could be said about John forbidding someone not of their group from casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9:49).

But what positive evidence do I have for John as an introvert. My first and strongest argument would come from his gospel. John’s gospel is remarkably different from the others. Mark, traditionally the gospel most associated with Peter, is almost all action. Where Peter the extrovert was drawn to events, John the introvert thought things through carefully and thoroughly. There are, of course, events in John’s gospel, but they are placed amid much more of Jesus’ teaching and preaching. No other gospel writer has anything approaching the philosophical altitude of John’s first chapter.

John also, with those exceptions noted above, is willing to stand back and let others act or speak. He’s with Peter in a number of situations, but he always lets Peter take the lead.

John is known as “the Beloved disciple.” Why? Was he being vain when he referred to himself as the disciple Jesus loved? I’d like to think that maybe Jesus was drawn more closely because John, unlike Peter, knew how to shut up or have a thoughtful conversation.

None of that, of course, proves anything about Jesus being an introvert. I’ll need to wait until tomorrow to deal with that.


The Executioners Are Coming–John 21:18

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”–John 21:18

John gospel iconDo you want to get older? Do you want your body to decline in all its powers? Nobody does. Getting older is something that, especially in our society, we fight against. Older people don’t have the cachet of wisdom that they do in some more traditional cultures, and if you don’t gain respect for wisdom (or don’t gain wisdom itself) as you age, then I’m not sure what you have to look forward to.

All you have to do is watch sports to realize that physical activity is a young person’s game. Baseball players tend to living on borrowed time at 40. Most football players do well to make it into the mid-30s. Gymnasts, especially female gymnasts, are pretty well washed up by 20.

Of course we will see people with good genes and good habits who can achieve great things as they age. I went to Israel with a man who, at over 70, grew impatient when our tour guide would not allow him to walk up the trail to Masada. Gene bolted from the group at the top of the hill and walked down. At the bottom, he had plenty of energy to do a human flag on post at the bottom.  A few years after that trip, Gene was diagnosed with cancer. He declined very quickly and died having accomplished a great deal and living a rich life.

The lesson is that we all will wind up like Peter in the verse above. Jesus explained to Peter that he would decline in both his physical powers and his independence. In that particular case, Peter would be led away by executioners. But then we’re all being slowly led away by executioners, whether they be Roman guards, cancer cells, atrophying heart muscle, or general wear and tear. Our executioners might be internal or external, near or far, but they are coming.

But look at what Jesus had to say about those executioners. He didn’t say “panic” or “run.” He had just finished telling Peter to “feed my sheep.” I don’t know when or how I will die, but I will, unless Christ returns, surely die. The executioners are already on their way. The only question for me to answer is how I live between now and then.Will I do my best to keep the executioners at bay or will I hurry them along? Will I feed the sheep or will I feed myself?

You Have to Eat Calories to Burn Calories?

Whole Grain BreadsAn article at Wise Bread offers “The 7 Most Calorie-Burning Breakfasts.” First of all, do foods actually burn calories? That seems dubious. And then there’s this whole idea of “The 7 Most…” Did our intrepid author really consider every possible combination of foods and somehow test them to discover that these were indeed the 7 best?

But perhaps I’m too harsh. Reading over these, at around 8:30 in the evening, I’m actually thinking about heading to bed early so that I can get up sooner and eat breakfast. Here’s how the writer sells oatmeal with cinnamon and walnuts:

High-fiber foods like oatmeal have been shown in studies to help people lose weight. Whole grains help you stay full for longer, leading you to eat less. They help eliminate waste in your body, and they are harder to break down, so your body burns more calories to process them.

Makes you hungry, doesn’t it? As much as I’d like to think He served biscuits and gravy, in John 21:12, when the resurrected Jesus said “Come and have breakfast,” I’m fairly certain He was serving something off of this list.

There’s a Toilet Flowing Deep and Wide

Across the hall from my office, a urinal was running on and on and on when I visited the gents’ room this morning. That same fixture had been running on Friday as I left for the weekend. Whether it ran for some 66 hours between, I cannot say, but the idea crossed my mind. As someone who has to haul his water in a 425-gallon tank atop a pickup, driving over gravel roads and braving the road construction in Oak Grove to get there, I have a very strong, very visceral reaction to the waste of water. I’ve been known to ask the kids why they didn’t drink water at Wal-Mart where it would have been free rather than swilling down 8 ounces of the precious stuff at our house.

It occurs to me that this water wastage saga speaks of a larger truth. Think about it. Who gets the most upset about wasted water? Me, the guy who has to haul it. My wife and family are reasonably frugal when it comes to the wet stuff. Individuals who actually have magical pipes that come into their home carrying the universal solvent don’t rise to my level of obsession, but they do notice. For example, when I was among the blessed connected, I couldn’t just let a toilet run or a faucet drip indefinitely. I knew the bill would arrive eventually, so I fixed the issue.

I would suggest that the larger the organization and the farther away the thinking part of the organization is from the problem, the less consternation will be caused. At a school that hosts 15,000 students on any given day, one running toilet just isn’t the biggest of issues.  Unfortunately, that same size issue can lead to other, more significant thought processes. When a school grows large, focus on the individual student becomes difficult. The same can happen in a church or a government entity.

I can’t stay close to everything in my life, but it seems that the closer I am to the production of my food, the provision of my water, or the procurement of my clothes, the more appreciative, the more conscientious, the more involved I will be.

This chatter takes my mind to Romans 5:8.  Perhaps Paul might have written “while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” I know, Paul was a capable enough writer to have said it that way had he wanted to. I’m probably just projecting a post-Renaissance emphasis on individualism on the idea, but it seems that the further we get from that ideal–of Christ dying not for our sins but for my sins–the more apt we are to see the running sewer of that sin not as a pressing problem but an abstract theory. There’s a lot of sin in the world, but what about me? There’s a lot of sin in the church, but what about me?

Across the hall, the water has ceased to run after a plumber removed the auto-flush unit from the fixture. Praise God, however, that the water of Christ runs forever fresh and refreshing, keeping the sewer of my life ever clean (John 4:14).