Students have asked me questions over the years that I have sought to probe with them and answer myself. I’m not sure I can reduce all the questions to the single-most important, but I think I can reduce them to a few topics.
What is the Christian life all about? Why has justice — especially in the world when it comes to poverty and suffering — been so neglected? What does kingdom of God mean and why wasn’t I evangelized into the kingdom? Why has peace — in the world and in our country — been so ignored by so many Christians? If love is so central to Jesus, why is it not more prominent as the center of my church and my life and my family?
In addition to these questions, when we discuss “wisdom” in the Bible, students begin to ask other questions: What is a wisdom culture? What would it look like today? And I have at times pushed back and said we are so absent of a wisdom culture because ours is a youth and newness and “what’s the next new thing?” culture.
Oddly enough, though my students don’t often ask about the church and they often come to us from the church, when they see the kingdom vision of Jesus they wonder what the church has to do with the kingdom. And then they begin to wonder why the church and do we need the church and … and then I push back and say the kingdom vision of Jesus and what the church is are not far apart. That can get things rolling. Another one that gets things rolling is anytime someone brings up hell or heaven, or any text we are reading touches on those themes.
In the inner recesses of my office I hear lots of stories about vocation — what should I do? What do you think of this job? — and at times students talk about their sex life and how they are either disappointed or ravaged or wondering and “why is this such a big deal in the church?”
When we examine the inner structure of the Gospels in the Jesus class the cross comes up, and sometimes students ask why the cross is so important and what it has to do with daily life.
That’s why I wrote One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow. Here’s what I can say now: when I began teaching college students I had a plan of what I would be writing over the next one or two decades. That all changed because “they asked.” I feel many times that I’m one step behind them and then at other times trying to get one step ahead of them – “if I say this, they will ask this. What will I say?”
There you have it, a part of the inner world of what it means to be a professor of some of the finest young people in the world.