Recently I watched — for the first time in almost two decades — the official video of the Fallbrook High School Class of 1991.
As they say in Minnesota, oof da.
But it got me to thinking.
One of the reasons I didn’t end up a teacher is that I never really liked high school in the first place. Being younger than everybody else probably didn’t help, but for the most part I was the outsider. The oddball. I was the guy you always saw in class but never saw at parties.
True story: Every year after AP tests, if you took a test that morning you were “unofficially” excused from the rest of your classes that day. Senior year, after the (I think) AP European History exam, a number of my classmates went to a party. There was a conspicuous amount of alcohol, and the rumor was that the police had to intervene in at least one case. Now, not everybody went to the party, but almost everybody knew about it. That afternoon, I went by myself to the barbecue place owned by the President of the local chess club where he and I chatted over a chess board and a bowl of teriyaki chicken and rice. I went home.
A few days later, I found out about the party — from my mom. She knew more about my classmates social life than I did, and I saw them every day.
It’s not that I was unfriendly, or that I would have ratted people out if I had known what was going on. I simply didn’t have much to offer. I was young, awkward, not poor but certainly not rich by Fallbrook standards, and known for being “out of the loop.” I didn’t get a drivers license until May of my junior year. I only bought clothes once a year (less often now). I was useful in the band, on the Academic Team, and if somebody needed help with their chemistry homework. But beyond that, there wasn’t much reason for anybody to go out of their way to make sure I was included in what they were doing.
As such, my perspective on the “normal” high school experience was that it was for “other people.” “Other people” play on sports teams. “Other people” hang out with friends on weekends, play in garage bands. “Other people” go to movies, school dances (I was 0-for Homecoming, Christmas, and Prom), and parties. “Other people” have girlfriends.
Not me. I was different. I was the oddball.
And when it comes to “social networking,” not much has changed in the 18 years since high school. “Other people” get blog comments. “Other people” have Twitter followers and Facebook friends. “Other people” have Super Bowl parties, Memorial Day lake trips, 4th of July barbecues. “Other people” get invited to other “other people’s” dinner parties.
Me? I play Boggle. In Klingon. Solitaire (of course).
Thus, for the outsider John 3:16 creates quite the theological quandary. “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son.” God loved the world. The “normal” thing is for God to love you. God’s gift of grace is for “the world.”
That is, it’s for “other people.”
The “one another” passages only made it worse. “Love one another.” “Bear one another’s burdens.” Be the sort of person that “other” people want to have around. Clearly, I was not that. Worse, I had no idea how to be that, or even where to begin.
If Christianity is the religion of “one another,” then clearly it’s the religion of “other people.” Right?
But where does that leave the oddball? Am I — the outsider, the freak, the mostly-useless, socially inept loner — really worth saving? If “other people” don’t want me around (and, for the record, in large measure they still don’t — imagine being the only guy at the church social function who doesn’t take a pinch when the snuff tin is passed around), isn’t God better off with me elsewhere? Isn’t God’s purpose better served by not having to claim me as one of His Own?
Am I really worth saving? Or is salvation just for “other people?”
As I fell into a depressive funk, John 14:11-13 snapped me back — and hard. Jesus tells His disciples just after the Last Supper, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Now for me, believing came easily. I had long since settled in my mind that the historical facts of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were as the Bible portrayed them. To me, they are beyond doubt. As such, I believe in Jesus, without hesitation. (He and I have exchanged some cross words over the years, but that’s another story for another day.)
But look at what that verse says about people who believe in Jesus. “The works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” In God’s mind, there is more to my salvation that just having another wallflower at the heavenly party. God wants to do more with me than just keep me out of hell and score a point against Satan.
God actually wants to have me around.
I am an important part of God’s plan. There are works that God has in store for me that are even greater than some of the things Jesus Himself did. My worth to God is greater than I could possibly imagine. God actually went out of His way to make sure that I was included in what He is up to. And what’s more, He trusts me not to make Him look bad in the process. Jesus Himself has my back. He vouches for me; it is on His word that I am welcomed to the team and freely given what I need to glorify the Father.
In Christ, even the outsider has a way in.