Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Ordinary Life

If you asked most Christians what the greatest thing they could do for God would be, you would get varied answers.  Many would say something like, "Sell everything I have and become a missionary."  Others would say, "Spend all my time evangelizing."  Others might say something more spiritual, abstract, and Gospel-centered-sounding like "Abide in Him!" or "Worship Him!" 

The common thread is that most of these answers involve to some degree leaving behind or escaping an ordinary life, including an ordinary job and ordinary activities, and engaging in some kind of "super-ministry" or spiritual activity.  The main issue I want to point out is that an ordinary life, and an ordinary job, is often not viewed as being "ministry" or service to others or God.  It is a life that is often relegated to the lukewarm or half-serious Christians, the mediocre, the rest of the pack.  The "on-fire" Christians, however, want to stand out and leave that kind of life behind and do something super-duper.

I take serious issue with this sentiment.  This is not, of course, to say that there is anything wrong with wanting to be a missionary, start an orphanage in a foreign land, or quit your job and become a full-time evangelist.  Some people are called to such things.  But the concerning thing is that an "ordinary" calling is not seen as a comparable and viable and equally valid Christian calling.  It seems we have run back to the pre-Reformation days when the "really holy people" became monks and learned Latin and the ordinary people worked and took care of their families.  That mindset is something the Reformers worked very hard to overthrow, yet it still lives in various forms, it seems.

I'm with the Reformers.  I don't believe our service to God or others should be about standing out from the crowd.  I don't believe in "classes" of service and ministry.  I believe that for most of us, our service to God and others will (and should) be nothing more than an ordinary life where we daily live, love our families, love our neighbors, and serve others by providing our services through our very ordinary, very non-spiritual looking jobs.

"But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and to mind your own affairs and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one." (from 1 Thess 4)

The plumber makes people's lives a little better by making sure the luxury of indoor plumbing is working in their home.  The food server makes people's lives a little better by serving their food with a smile and a warm greeting, helping them relax and enjoy a meal.  The corporate computer-programmer makes people's lives a little better by providing software solutions that enhance and automate business processes.

And this is how God acts in our lives and in the world, through the tangible hands, feet, smiles, hugs, and service of regular people.  This is how God ordinarily provides.... through the very simple and ordinary routines and activities and services of ordinary people like you and I.

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