You’ll be aware that the Olympic games are happening right as you read this. People are running and jumping and hitting each other, and more, both for other people’s entertainment and the sake of being the best at these things on the world stage. Everyone is watching the activities and it’s quite an enjoyable time. While we’re doing that, it seems as good a chance at any to reconsider what “success” is. We’re all keen to see gold medals hanging around the necks of some New Zealanders, and no doubt the national mood will lift if our flag is hoisted above those of other nations a few times. We all also realise of course that true success in life goes beyond getting a gold medal and a short-term boost in national pride; but we’re not necessarily sure how.
What does our culture, or the majority emphasis thereof, consider success to be? Who, real or merely ideal, is our collective model? I think for most of us the perfect model person is first and foremost ‘in control’ – they’re running the show, and any others in the picture are joining in for the ride. The person to be is smart and sassy, popular and powerful in one way or another. They’re sexually active (it almost goes without saying), and they’re happy – and the two are probably linked! Successful Sam or Sally is certainly not judgmental or religious in any serious way, and if they care about politics they’re probably a fan of having a larger state where the government looks after everyone well; but the details of that will depend on their friendship circles. They drive a decent car, or they have enough income to live the good life anyway. Ideally they’ll own their own property and enjoy travelling, and they’re obviously young and full of potential.
Yet, though it may sound unthinkable, there are other models of success! This week amidst the excitement of the Olympics and the busyness of term time is “Jesus Week” at Auckland Uni, presented by various Christian clubs on campus. We think that Jesus offers what the world most desperately needs, and also serves as a shockingly different model of success and human well-being. Jesus was not wealthy or particularly mobile – the most impressive means of transport he was ever likely to have made use of was riding through the dusty roads of Palestine on a donkey. For a time he was popular, when people thought he wanted to achieve their political goals for them, but this ended soon enough. He is a leader of leaders, to whom thousands of kings and presidents have sworn allegiance, but the way he demonstrated leadership was to use his own hands in washing the crap and other muck from the road off the feet of his followers. He died a criminal’s death, hanging naked on a Roman cross after having been mocked and flogged. Jesus didn’t fight back when arrested and taken to trial, and he didn’t lead a political revolution – give the Emperor what he deserves and give God what He deserves, was Jesus’ challenge to us.
In light of this, Christians on campus believe that we have something to offer the university this week. We don’t do so out of arrogance or because we think we’re better than anyone else, but because we believe the claims Jesus made about himself are true, and that he continues to turn lives upside down to this day. Nick Willis, carrier of the NZ flag at the London 2012 Olympics, discovered this simple truth while on a running scholarship a few years ago: “Jesus showed me how we can live life to the fullest.” He recounts that people “started encouraging me to consider what I thought about Jesus, how my life could change if He were a part of it. At the time, I didn’t really know the answers to these questions, but I was very curious to find out.” This week, why not look out for the flyers and posters for our events, and pick one to come along to? Whatever your own beliefs, interact with the claims placed before the campus this week by your fellow students – I and many others have put them to the test and believe they are both intellectually credible and existentially satisfying. Investigate this Jesus, and re-think success with us.
For the first event of the week, come and hear Chris Clarke, CEO of World Vision, sharing his thoughts on how to change the world. Monday 6th August, 5pm. Look out for our posters & flyers for more event details. [blog-editor’s note – it’s in Shadows!]
Evangelical Union president