Epilogue: The “So What?” Factor
Having arrived at the end of our study, we are faced with a question. It is Jesus himself who now questions us: whether we will build on his foundation, or on something else. This question will follow us, especially if we call ourselves Christian – but it will follow us if in any sense we have heard these strange and wonderful words of his.
This inquiry into the mind of Jesus has left to one side any reference to a number of important Christian beliefs. We have not considered the virgin birth, the miracles, or the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. No argument has been mounted for or against the Trinity, or even for the inspiration of the Bible. Though these are all significant issues deserving treatment, we have resisted the temptation to delve into them in the course of this study. Instead we have tried only to get a clear look at what Jesus actually taught. I for one would rather see someone hear Jesus’ words and do something about them, than adhere to a set of beliefs about Jesus that do not affect that person’s own life.
The question, “So what?” is really an excellent barometer of the value of a teaching. The religious market is flooded with books and articles wanting to persuade us to adopt some set of opinions or another. A great deal of energy goes into discussions of fine points of biblical interpretation relating to a wide range of topics. To all of this energetic debate, much of the world effectively shrugs its shoulders and says, “Yeah, maybe so. But so what?”
If the people of God cannot respond to such a question, we will find ourselves speaking into the air. It is just that question that Jesus himself addresses for us. The opinions that Jesus offers us all have consequences. He offers the opinion that God can be called Father; that our neighbor and our enemy are worthy of real respect and active love; that forgiveness is a requirement for salvation, and that to withhold forgiveness from someone else is to deny it to ourselves; that we create the criteria under which we are to be judged; that prayer from the heart is possible and effective. All of these opinions invite experiment, so that when we ask “so what?” we can find an answer to that question in our own lives.
Is the Kingdom of God really within the reach of those who dare to repent (change their way of thinking) and act upon the good news Jesus brings to us? Can individuals, corporations, families, institutions or the community of nations really build on the foundation Jesus has laid down? Or is it too much of a risk to put these teachings into practice?
Are his teachings practical wisdom, or impractical ideals? Can the churches take the lead in applying this wisdom?
Will it work?
For all of us, faced with this question, there is really only one way to find out.