Epic TV shows have shown me something about following Jesus. Allow me to explain.
Music has the ability to take us to places silence cannot. It can induce many different feelings in us like hope, fear, reflection, anticipation, resolve, or sadness. Some time ago, TV show and movie producers figured this out and began to supplement the action on the screen with whatever music induced the type of emotion they hoped the viewer would feel. It works. There have been many moments that while watching TV I have been overwhelmed with emotion, captivated by the story so much so that it feels like I have a stake in it. I’m sure this resonates with some.
In those epic moments, when our hearts are beating fast and our emotions are running high, it’s easy to notice how much we care about the story we are watching. But we aren’t really just watching it, we’re invested in it. We actively hope for certain things. We hope certain characters succeed. We hope other characters lose. We hope she realizes she’s making a mistake before it’s too late. We hope he makes a good judgment. We hope for relationships to be restored. We hope for others to end. At times we even wish we were the characters (I always wanted to be Jason Bourne). The point is, the TV shows and movies we love all have a series of events that lead to a climax aka the moment we have all been waiting for. TV series have profound potential for good storytelling because series are organized into smaller parts called ‘seasons’ and even smaller parts called ‘episodes’. Essentially, you can have resolution or even a climactic moment at the end of every episode and every season. There is rarely a dull moment. Such is the life of a devoted follower of Jesus.
When Jesus invited Simon, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, Nathanael, and others to follow Him, He was inviting them to experience the adventure of a lifetime… a mission so monumental that it would cost them their lives. Many of the first followers of Jesus had to leave behind occupations and financial security; it cost many others their family relationships, inheritances, etc. It was a whole life pursuit, one that cost something -one that cost everything. Yet, within the subculture of Christianity in America, it basically costs nothing except a Sunday morning and giving up a few addictive practices. “It’s the free gift of salvation” many say – but that is not consistent with how Jesus talked about discipleship, “if anyone wants to come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever will lose their life for my sake will save it”. Paul spoke quite often of being crucified with Christ, sharing in His suffering so that he could share in His resurrection, Christ living through us. Jesus Himself said, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples”. While all this sounds a bit dreary to the heart that has never experienced it, it is really an invitation to experience an incredibly, adventurous, meaningful life.
I believe the reason epic TV shows are so engaging for us is because they tap into a deeper truth: our hearts long for mission, for adventure, for purpose. And many of us, Christian or not, are going through our everyday lives feeling like we don’t have a stake in anything. Followers of Jesus though have been invited to join with God in the ministry of reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5). Our prayer everyday should be that His kingdom comes among us, that His will happens on this earth now like it happens in the heaven reality. Followers of Jesus get to continue the work of Jesus on this earth – that is why we are called “the body of Christ”. Our mission is urgent, our call critical. Every morning should feel grand. There are two great human activities, the second of which is to participate in the mission of inviting all people to be a part of the kingdom of God, making your portion of earth as King-centric as possible. The first of which is to worship the King. Followers of Jesus get to engage in both of these activities every day. That is real life. This is the epic journey.