Jesus: Introvert, Part 4

And your point is . . . ? I saw somebody recently wearing a hat that carried that snarky question. Tuesday night, as I sat in a meeting and listened to a member of our group rambling on about things that almost made sense, I wished that I had 25 such hats for everyone in the room, on signal, to put on.

People do tend to go on and on. In fact, you might be thinking that I have gone on and on about this whole Jesus as an introvert thing. So far I’ve tried to convince you that Peter was an extrovert (easy), that John tended toward the introvert side (a bit less easy), and then that Jesus himself was an introvert (harder yet). But let’s imagine that you agree with me on all of these previous claims. You might find yourself asking, “And your point is . . . ?”

To answer that, let’s first consider what Jesus as an introvert does not mean. It does not mean that he had some debilitating social anxiety, that every encounter with people beyond his inner circle was endlessly painful. Introversion is not a sickness, although, as Susan Cain, in Quiet, argues forcefully, it is sometimes treated that way by many in American society. We sometimes hear people worrying about their child who won’t “come out of her shell,” but we never hear about kids who won’t go into their shells.

The introvert tends to need alone time and tends to value time with a close circle of trusted friends. The introvert tends to spend more time in his or her own head, working out complex ideas. The introvert is more apt to listen to opposing ideas and to make those holding such ideas feel valued. Contrary to popular opinion, introverts can take bold and decisive action, but they’re more apt to have thoroughly evaluated the situation before charging into action. Introverts can be terrific leaders.

Extroverts can do many things well also. It’s not as if Jesus didn’t know what He was doing when He selected Peter as a key apostle. Without those extrovert qualities, the church probably would not have exploded onto the scene as it did. Yes, I know that the Holy Spirit had a little bit to do with that early success, but God nearly always works through people.

If American culture placed a high value on introspection and reserve, then I’m not sure I would have much of a point in saying the Jesus was an introvert. But we place great value on the person of action. And we tend to discount the value of the person of thought. If Jesus was an introvert or, perhaps a more palatable formulation, he possessed the best qualities of both introverts and extroverts, then shouldn’t we, as the body of Christ, take efforts to value both tendencies?

If I’m right, then without valuing introverts we wouldn’t have these words from John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him,and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.–John 1:1-5

Can you imagine Apostle Foot-in-Mouth Peter sitting still long enough to frame these words? But can you imagine the contemplative John stepping up to preach on Pentecost? We need our introverts and extroverts together.

What’s my point? That’s my point.