Except when it’s not.
Do a Google search of “It’s all about Jesus.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. In fact, here’s a link that will bring up the first page of results for you. What do you see? Sermon series, song lyrics, statements of beliefs, book titles. That’s just the first page of results.
“It’s all about Jesus” is a phrase that is obviously in vogue. It has a powerful rhetorical ring to it. One easily imagines (or remembers) a fiery preacher whipping up a crowd by reminding everyone that life is simple: “It’s all about Jesus.”
Except it’s not.
Caveat time. Certainly everything was made through Christ and for him (Colossians 1:16). So it’s all for Jesus. But that’s a different thing entirely. And yes, in an ultimate sense, our lives are about bringing glory to God (including Jesus). But I rarely hear the phrase used purely in such ultimate and cosmological terms.
Rather, when the phrase is used, I think it generally means something like this: “Life seems complex and there’s so many questions we have but all that really matters is Jesus.”
There’s a kernel of truth here. The truth is that Jesus does matter more than anything else. What’s not true is that he’s all that matters.
After all, it’s this same Jesus who tells us to love our neighbor, and not just our neighbor, but our enemy. If it’s all about Jesus, then why does he direct our eyes elsewhere?
If, even in the tiniest of details of our lives, it’s all about Jesus, then why do we bother going to work and having vocations and doing things that don’t necessarily directly relate to him?
Maybe it’s not all about Jesus. And maybe that’s okay.
Jesus didn’t come so he could be the perfect answer to every question or scenario. He came to show us and empower us to live fully human lives. A fully human life does not necessarily require every moment of every day revolving around Jesus. It should be for Jesus, but it need not be about Jesus.
So why bring this up at all? Two reasons. First, the integrity of our lives as gift is at stake here. God, in his grace, gives us lives with a myriad of possibilities and a million questions and nudges us out in the world, saying “Go, be like me.” He doesn’t give us details and he doesn’t tell us what every moment should look like. We have the gift of freedom, of exploration. Saying that “it’s all about Jesus” is often an attempt to simplify the complexity of the world that is part of the very freedom God has given us.
Second, these four words can wound as much as they can encourage. “It’s all about Jesus” isn’t comforting to the depressive who is struggling with the loss of a parent, or spouse, or child. “It’s all about Jesus” isn’t helpful to the person who feels like their prayers are hitting the ceiling. Life’s complexity demands complex answers and “it’s all about Jesus” can easily feel insufficient, leaving us more disoriented than we were before.
Yes, this is a language issue, but it’s an important one. It’s all for Jesus, we live to glorify him, but it’s not all about Jesus. I think he’d tell us that himself.