I watch 90210. And I love it.
And just so we’re clear, I’m talking about the show from the 90s – bad hair, clothes, makeup, acting…Oh, wait, the new one is like that too? Well, I mean the one from the 90s.
Now that that’s out in the open…I’ve decided to break from reading the New Testament letters and spend some time reading the Gospels. Paul tends to be the safest, friendliest option, and by most counts, Paul speaks the truth in clear, understandable ways. Jesus, however, tends to say things that make me squirm, He never seems to be doing the things that I would expect him to, and sometimes He sounds mean. So, recently, I opted to read John – in an effort to see my God with new eyes. Instead of breezing through the passages I’ve heard a hundred times, I’ve decided to stop every once in a while and pray, “What the heck was that for?”
. . .
I needed to pray when I read John 4, when a royal official comes and asks Jesus to heal his sick son. The Jesus in my head says, “Yes, of course I’ll heal him!” Jesus actually says, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” And sure, I’m oversimplifying things, but that sounds mean. So I prayed my new prayer, “What the heck was that for?” and read it again.
To summarize the passage, a royal official comes to Jesus and asks him to come to his house and heal his son. Jesus says, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” The man asks again. Jesus tells him to go home and that his son is healed. The man believes Him and goes home. When he gets home, his son is healed, and the man’s faith deepens. And then, the man’s entire household believes in Jesus.
Upon re-reading, instead of a mean Jesus, I found a Jesus that knows infinitely more than we do (or than that official did). I found a Jesus that is compassionate enough to care about the condition of our faith, and by His power – increases it. I found a Jesus who knows that the Father’s glory is most important, and that despite our need for signs and answered prayers, the Lord is doing MORE than we may ask of Him.
. . .
I needed to pray when I read John 9, when the disciples and Jesus run into a man who has been blind since birth. The disciples attribute the man’s suffering to a sinful life – either led by him or his parents. When they ask Jesus about it he says, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” I read that, and I prayed, “What the heck is this about?” and I read it again.
And even though God did not grant me a full theology of suffering, I was reminded of an episode of 90210. There is a character on the show named Valerie. Valerie is always up to no good, and in one episode, she is dating two guys at the same time. One of the men is really rich (I can’t remember his name, because I am watching a soap opera, and I can’t possibly be expected to remember names when I’m this zoned out). Valerie is only dating him because he has money and he buys her expensive things and takes her out to dinner on airplanes. Valerie’s other boyfriend is Noah (he’s more important, so I know his name), and the soap opera writers have created that whole romantic tension thing, so you are sucked into them being in love for real. The only problem is that Noah doesn’t have money (or so she thinks…), so she dates both of them, conflict ensues, she goes into a coma. Ok, there’s no coma. But the thing is that her relationship with that other guy is totally disgusting. You hate it because she is dating him for what he can give her, not because she loves him.
And so, in the passage about the suffering of a blind man, instead of a mean Jesus (who didn’t give me a job as soon as I asked for it), I found a Jesus who shapes all circumstances for our good and for His glory. I found a Jesus who doesn’t want to be followed because he continually supplies our comfort and contentment on command, and a Jesus who deserves our love despite our circumstances. I found a God who protects us from making an idol out of our own gratification and desires us to love Him because He first loved us.
. . .
Not all of my prayers have been answered, and Jesus still sounds mean sometimes, but I’m glad that I am choosing to invest in my relationship with Him a bit more. I’m glad that I am looking at the old stories a little closer. And I’m glad that I haven’t been afraid to ask questions and pray for clarity.
And I’m also glad that God can use horrible TV like 90210 to teach me something. In fact, I am going to be really ‘spiritual’ and go watch an episode right now…