Callings – Called to Get Our Faith Dirty
“I want the dirtiest jobs you can think of.” I took our youth group to Chicago for a weekend with a bunch of old Jesus Freaks and other misfits for the Kingdom who back in the sixties buried their lives in the north side of Chicago and didn’t have enough sense to leave. People come from all over the world to hang with them, experience their community or learn about innovative urban ministry transcending ethnic lines while Jesus steam presses some of their kinks out. “I got the picture,” the guy on the line said. They didn’t disappoint us. I wanted a bunch of church rats to get their faith down and dirty in ways that would stick.
It’s hard to think about callings from God without imagining something big, attention-getting – Moses stuff. Or those people up front – preachers who yell and spit a lot or worship leaders with closed quivering eyelids. If we can’t do those things, there must not be much left; many Christians think they have no calling. The spotlight, the stage or platform, anywhere Jesus allows us to get noticed for Him also makes for a bone that our sinful pride can gnaw on. Christ’s glory can be sticky and hard to get off our own fingers. Only one thing over the long haul keeps our head screwed on and focused on Kingdom things like our calling – the power of serving.
When Paul says that the God’s agenda for Christians’ lives is that they “be conformed to the image of His Son,” (Romans 8:29) what does he mean? Jesus Himself sets the tone in places like the foot washing text in Matthew 20:28 in saying “…the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Again in Luke 22:27 where He says “…I am among you as one who serves.” Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, got that flesh dirty, bloody and torn. Us living the same way stands as the only was to insure that His life will continue to pulsate in and through us and that our callings will live and not stagnate or dry up.
We fuss and fawn over ourselves too much. And we spend too much time, energy and money trying to get others to do the same. One of the most formidable obstacles in the road to pursuing callings from God lies in having to scale the mile high walls of the American Navel. In a culture bristling with personal trainers, cosmetic surgeons, yoga and Zumba classes, diet consultants, tanning salons as well as nail and hair specialists, our obsession with ourselves makes us ugly no matter how we tweak the wrapper or shell. Serving, getting dirt under our spiritual fingernails, lets a deeper attractiveness breathe. Any combination of a few things make serving easy to understand, hard to miss.
First, serving is almost always inconvenient because it runs on God’s schedule, not mine. If it’s at my convenience, it’s probably not serving. Next, it means doing for others regardless of whether we like them or not. They’re in front of us. They’re breathing. Jesus loves them. Serving time! It also means sometimes doing for others what we would never even do for ourselves. Finally, serving means doing without being noticed, applauded, thanked, complimented, rewarded, paid or even seeing results or feeling good about ourselves later (even though we probably will). Human applause, praise and affirmation is not only overrated and inflated, it’s dangerous for anyone wanting to walk seriously with God. In our narcissistic culture, we dump it all over each other like someone pouring a pound of sugar in one coffee. It kills many appetites in us the Holy Spirit wants to feed.
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.” (I Peter 5:6) Serving always humbles, never humiliates. Servants don’t think God’s will gets done only when their ideas get put into play. Servants don’t give orders or have preconceived ideas as to what they will, won’t or need to do. (We can always spot sinful pride by what it refuses to do while masking as being spiritual. If someone overflows with this, the more likely they are to get ordained.) Servants take orders without complaint, tackling the low task with vigor and thoroughness. Servants don’t whine for attention, strut for the spotlight or pander for praise and compliments. Serving sandpapers our sinful self-centeredness and blows the tires on our pride like nothing else.
Sometimes it’s intentional. We plunge into other countries and/or cultures for concentrated immersion into need or tragedy. It doesn’t have to be a mission trip or urban plunge weekend. We can volunteer anytime. I’m always chagrined that people can go off to Zambia for two weeks or the slums of a city for a weekend and then come home to do nothing more than encourage people to go off and do the same. That’s great but there are homeless shelters, rescue missions, food pantries, literacy programs, big brother/sister things, sports leagues, crisis pregnancy centers in our own neighborhoods that would love to have us any day of the week or the month. Take the church with us instead of needlessly duplicating their good work. And parents who want their kids to live for Jesus should get their faith dirty alongside their kids.
Sometimes it’s incidental, sprinkled so randomly across our day that we don’t even recognize it. We’ll serve reflexively like saying “excuse me” after a sneeze. It becomes ingrained in our spiritual DNA. And that’s when it becomes creative and fun. Why just touch someone with kindness when we can touch them with grace that has BANG to it?
Serving guards our hearts from blowing up everything beautiful of Jesus in and through us, including our callings. Serving doesn’t just feel good, it feels right. Christ shines through our clay with rare light when we take the low place. The real praises we crave will never come from a world that gives its awards and then forgets, that awards degrees for theses that no one will read, whose treasures aren’t even skin deep. Our Scorekeeper counts cups of water, cookies baked, hands held and tears dried. We are never more like Him that when we walk in His steps and do it.
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