when cool isn’t cool…or the day I learned what ‘cool’ was…

I remember (maybe you do too) when I finally learned what it meant to be ‘cool’. Of course a kid’s life is totally consummed with the pursuit of ‘cool,’ and let’s be honest it doesn’t change all that much when you become an adult. We all still want to be respected, esteemed, thought well-of, live like someone to be emulated… right? That’s basically what kids are after, at least in my estimation. But the question is, how does one become ‘cool’? As it turns out being ‘cool’ is somewhat paradoxical… The harder you TRY to be cool the less you often are, and the less you TRY to be cool the more you tend to be cool. So it seems like being cool has more to do with NOT doing than doing. I remember when I finally figured that out I was like, “What an absolute kick in the pants! Is that really it?” Now, some maybe sitting at their computers thinking, “What about having good style, a sense of humor, the right car/friends/stuff… doesn’t that play a part?” Well, no… not really.

A quick example might be helpful… when I was in high school, we had the typical group of ‘cool’ kids… you know the jocks, cheerleaders, those sorts. There middle of the roaders, and then there were… well, geeks, nerds, what have you… (I don’t make the designations, I just report them)… In my senior year something happened. A friend of mine, who was not a jock or considered terribly popular, decided to go out for all the “cool/popular kid” things like student government, homecoming court, prom king, etc. I should explain he was a skinny white kid with big, bushy hair, shopped at the thrift store (this was before it was popular to do so), and drove a soccer-mom van. There was nothing explicitly cool about him, except his attitude. He just was who he was and didn’t change. He met people as himself and put himself out there… By the end of the year he was elected to the student government, was the MC for homecoming, was the prom king, and was voted Best All Around. He broke a mold, and taught me exactly what it meant to be cool. (For those in the class of ’98 at Citrus High you know I am not making this up).

So, what? What does this have to do with anything? This reminded me of Christ in a lot of ways. He was who he was, unapologetically and without putting himself into any mold. His disciples wanted him to be a great military leader who would kick out the Romans and bring the nation of Israel to prominence. The religious leaders wanted him to be a meek rabbi who would bolster the system of traditions upon which their power was based. Jesus wanted to do what he was sent to do. He was and is the Son of God who came to earth as a servant and laid down his life as payment for our shortcomings, our sins. Like the idea of ‘cool’ Jesus’ life is paradoxical. In him is all the power of the divine, yet he came as a servant. In him was all the authority the religious leaders wanted to exercise, but he did not use it as they would have. Even Jesus’ teaching is paradoxical. “If anyone wants to be first in the kingdom of heaven, he must make himself a last.” And “Love your enemies, and pray for those that persecute you.” And there are others.

The point is, that we should always be careful what kind of box we put our Christianity into. To understand how we should live and how to honor God with our lives, we need to put in careful study, and a lot of prayer, and not TRY to be holy as though we could earn our salvation. But instead we should live like Christ as a way to show our devotion to him.

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