How to Be Good by Nick Hornby

I’m reading How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. The plot centers around a rocky marriage that’s weathering a wife’s affair and a husband’s sudden spiritual enlightenment. The husband is suddenly enlightened to what an angry jerk he’s been and he wants to make a difference in the world. He forgets his former hang-ups and the unspoken social rules he used to follow and tries to make the world a better place. He gives away his possessions and organizes his neighborhood to house homeless runaway kids in their spare bedrooms. I’m not finished yet, but so far he looks like a total freak, he’s driving his children and wife away, and he’s not making much of a dent in the world changing business.

I don’t think Hornby intended the comparison, but I can’t help but think this is what Jesus intended. Jesus is the kind of guy who would let a homeless kid sleep in his spare bedroom. While most of us would kick the kid out on his butt when he steals something, Jesus would invite the kid back in. The kid would steal time and time again and Jesus would open the door again and let the kid back in, leaving his world wide open to be ripped off. That’s what’s so amazingly frustrating about Jesus. Common sense and self-preservation aren’t an issue. If someone beat the crap out of Jesus, he’d still love them.

That’s such a high call. How can we even live up to that? I need to protect my family, my possessions, my financial security. I risk losing face, I risk feeling dumb, I risk embarrassment and being uncomfortable. But Jesus didn’t recognize social norms or embarrassment or losing face. None of that meant anything to him. That’s why he’s Jesus Christ.

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