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I once had a student challenge me about Jesus. She said, “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe what you say about there being so many different views of Jesus.” I had, in my classes, only mentioned three. “Good!” I responded, “I’m glad you don’t believe me!” She smiled. She had heard me say that phrase many times before. “Would you like an extra credit assignment that will replace any test grade you want?” Every student’s attention was piqued now, all wishing they had come up with their classmate’s objection. “Sure!” she was completely pleased with the positive academic turn of events.
“OK,” I began, “Here’s my challenge. Go to downtown Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan. Stand on the street corner with a clipboard and ask passersby one question, ‘Who do you think Jesus is?’ In one hour, I will bet you that you will obtain at least 25 different views of Jesus.” Her eyes brightened. I could see the wheels turning in her mind. Only one hour? Substitute that time for a test grade? Prove the teacher wrong? Win, win, win.
It was a Friday. She went to Ann Arbor on Saturday. She was back in class on Monday. I did not make any comment. But she did. “Could I tell the class about what I discovered?” Students were still envious about the whole grade thing. “Sure! What did you find out?” The young woman brought out a sheet of paper where she had collected responses from U of M students. “To be honest,” she began, “I didn’t spend the whole hour.” There was a quiet murmur in the room, disappointment that perhaps their classmate had not fulfilled her end of the bargain. “I didn’t have to,” she continued, “Because in 45 minutes I had recorded 25 different views of Jesus. I figured that was enough.”