IS JESUS RELEVANT TODAY?
Some years back, I was speaking to a group of young Pastors and Pastor trainees. As I started opening my Bible, one of them asked me, "Professor, do you use text books which are twenty or more years old for your academic work?" I told him, "I don’t." He asked me, "Why don’t you?" I replied, "That is because some contents and notations used in the old text books are outdated."
He was waiting for this answer to corner me. With a triumphant voice, he fired two stunner questions at me. He asked me, "If that is so, why do you use the Bible which is 2000 years old? Why do you quote Jesus Christ who is irrelevant in this changing world?" The biggest tragedy was, almost the entire group of theologians agreed with this young man and his line of argument. I felt very sad for them and for the congregations they were ‘shepherding’ as Pastors. God be merciful to them!
Fast Changing World
Many people have been asking the question, "Is Jesus relevant in this fast changing world?" This is a reasonable question in the minds of many people who are exposed to the awesome advances in technology. Maybe, you are asking the same question today. What makes me happy about this question is that people want to have Jesus in their lives, and want to clear the muddle in their mind before they do so.
In fact, millions of people are seeking Jesus and want to know how He is relevant? If you type ‘Jesus’ on Google and click ‘search,’ in one millisecond it will generate 174 million references. If you type ‘Jesus’ in amazon.com, you get 26,347 related books on Jesus on its shelves. More and more people want to know him. Even as they want to know Him, the question they have is, how is Jesus relevant in today’s world of technology?
Early this year, I spent some wonderful time with a young IT wizard. He astounded me by describing some new mind-boggling innovations that were hitting the market. One such innovation was ‘cloud computing,’ an emerging technology which would provide for each person an exclusive computer memory and domain in the cloud. When that happens, we can dispense with the hard disc in the computer. In the context of technological innovations of such great dimensions, the question that comes naturally is, "Is Jesus relevant today?"
Jesus did not even have a cell phone, and had never sent an SMS. He never rode a bike or sped in a car. The fastest vehicle he rode was a donkey, though He could have chosen a horse. He had never seen a TV in his life. He had never used the internet all His life! The worst is, He did not even know electricity. How can He be relevant today? We can add more to this list of things which we know and do today, that He did not know and did not do in His days, and ask the same question.
King Of kings
While trying to answer this question, we must first realise that Jesus had no claims to technology. But He was the source of all wisdom which leads to creation and use of technology. He made no claims to doing successful corporate business, but He led a great historical movement with a leadership acumen which will put the combined wisdom of all management gurus to shame. When He declared to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn.18:36), He implied that He is the King of a kingdom more powerful than all the kingdoms of the earth. There is a basic framework under which this question must be understood and answered. It is true that technology has grown as never before and changed the face of the earth, but man has not changed one bit. His basic nature remains the same. Neither has God changed. The eternal principles propounded by Jesus are valid today as they were in His time. "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb.13:8).
In spite of all the scientific and technological advances, the basic nature of man remains the same. Let us look at some examples: The early man was so full of wickedness that God grieved in His heart that He created them. God was so grieved that He wiped out of existence man and animals, and creatures that moved along the ground, and birds of the air except Noah and his family and the occupants of the boat he built. Are the people of today any better? Has better technology made man better humans? The answer is a big ‘no.’ Today’s man is as wicked as the early man or even worse.
The wickedness in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was great. The men of Sodom, both young and old, surrounded the house of Lot and demanded, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them" (Gen.19:5). "The Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the heaven," and completely destroyed them (Gen. 19:24). Are the people of today any better? According to reports published in magazines and Newspapers, homosexual relationships increase in leaps and bounds every passing day. Such relationships are accepted as normal and natural. Lesbian and gay marriages are shamelessly conducted in churches and the percentage increase of such marriages is mind-boggling. Live-in relationships more than double every year. Sin of sexual perversion is abounding. Man has changed for the worse.
Eve became a victim of the lust of the eyes and of the heart. David too fell for the lust of the eyes and added to it the lust of the flesh. Are people of today different? Many media sources like the TV, Internet and print churn out pornography of nauseating vulgarity and have millions as a captive audience.
Greed for money and possessions is as old as history itself. Jacob cheated both his father and his brother Esau for a better share of the property. For Judas, 30 pieces of silver was more important than his Master and Lord. Ananias and Sapphira cheated God and Peter for a small amount of money and paid a heavy price with their lives. Are people any different now? Greed is man’s biggest problem today. Several elected representatives and ministers have been systematically looting us. India is currently witnessing some kind of revolution against corruption. Man has not changed a bit.
The lust of the flesh, manifesting in craving for food, drinks, drugs and sex, has always been enslaving men for ages. Samson’s problem is today the problem of many. I have heard the story of the President of a small country, who was forbidden, for health reasons, from eating non-vegetarian food, except those prepared from creatures which swim. He was so crazy that he began to teach pigs, fowl, lamb and other cattle to swim, and even started a big institute to impart this training to animals. Man has not changed.
Man Needs The Same God
Man has not changed. He continues to be helpless against sin that lives in him. Paul identifies himself with this helpless condition of man and states, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but I do what I hate to do. Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom.7:15-24).
Paul needed Jesus Christ 2000 years back to lead a victorious life. We need the same Jesus Christ 2000 years later for the same reasons. We need Him more today than the people of the past. We are in a deeper crisis today and more under the grip of sin than ever before. Technology has brought sin into our homes. The devil has such a close partnership with technology that we are bombarded with temptations from all sides. They come in ceaseless waves one after the other like an all consuming tsunami, devouring everyone and everything coming in its way.
In the midst of this all-consuming sin, our loving God comes as the only Saviour. He is God, who neither leaves us nor forsakes us. He is always on the hotline, waiting to come to our rescue. We only have to call Him. He said, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour Me." He waits for us to seek Him so that He can teach us great and unsearchable things so that we can escape the devil’s tricks (Jer.33:3;Jn.14:26).
While the world looks at things from a technology and scientific development perspective, Paul wants us to use a different approach. He says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom.12:2).
The attitude that Paul suggests we cultivate is to say, "Thank you Lord for all the technology that You have provided to make life easy for us, but, we need You more than technology, for nothing in the world can give us the salvation and peace that You can give us." We can live with or without technology, but we can do nothing without Jesus. Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing."