Called to Marvellous Light

“We are called to preach the Gospel.”

“We are called to love everyone.”

“We are called to worship the Lord.”

“We are called to make war on the devil.”

We’ve all heard those at some point or another, right? We’ve all been told how we have to find our calling – what Jesus really wants us to do. Or, we’ve been told that all human beings have the same calling, usually one of the four above.

In fact, we’ve been told so many things by so many different people from so many different walks of life that many of us just don’t know what to think or believe anymore. Some say the Bible is the centre of our faith, some say it’s not; some say God used evolution to make the world, some say He didn’t; some say complete holiness and good works is essential to be saved, some say they’re not. Some say everything in the Bible is true, some say it isn’t. Some say we still speak with tongues when baptised with the Holy Ghost; some say we don’t. And so Christianity shattered into a million pieces, with thousands of different denominations scattered across the world, each clinging to its own piece of Scripture and shouting its own beliefs.

It’s enough to give anybody a headache.

And when we’re so busy listening to what everybody’s telling us, to this devotional and that Scripture and this video and that preacher and this evangelist and that movie, it’s all so easy to completely lose the sound of God’s still small voice inside of us.

We don’t all have to do things the same way. Luke 9:49-50:

49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.

50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

So when we get caught up in debates and arguments with our fellow believers, perhaps we need to stop and think for a moment. Both of us believe in the same God. Why on Earth are we squabbling like Tweedledee and Tweedledum over a rattle? A fine example we’re making to the rest of the world. We Christians can’t even get along with each other – what happened to being “called to love everyone”?

If a guy walks up to you and says that he doesn’t need to read the Bible to know Jesus, don’t just spit fire at him because you do. Different doesn’t mean better or worse. Our faith is a simple and beautiful thing, and we don’t have to keep fighting over details.

We all believe in God the Father, Whose Son, Jesus Christ, died to pay for our sins and lives again that we might have eternal life, and in the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us. We agree on that, yes? Catholics, Protestants, charismatics, Orthodox, non-denominational churches, non-churchgoing believers? All agreed? Good. We’re all Christians. Why are we fighting so much over the details?

I’m just as guilty as everybody else. When a girl flaunts her singleness as if it’s the ultimate goal, it goes right up my nose. She says she follows God before everyone else; I say that there is no better way to follow Him than to love one of His children. I can get quite fired up about that and before you know it we’re screaming at one another. Is that really what Jesus wants? What happened to turning the other cheek?

Oh, but we’re supposed to defend our faith, right? Do you really think Jehovah, God, the One who made the whole world, who could blow us all away with a sneeze, needs you, a puny human, to defend Him from another puny human?

I don’t like to hear the Name of God blasphemed any more than you do, by believer or unbeliever. Jesus, after all, threw the moneychangers out of the temple and in so doing scared the freaking socks off them. Sometimes people need a good scare to respect something. But we really need to cut this fighting stuff out, whether it’s with one another or with members of different faiths or of no faith at all. Just because that person is called to preach the Gospel to all the nations doesn’t mean you are. Just because this person is called to fight Satan every single day doesn’t mean you are. Just because this person is called to wallow through blood and excrement to pull dying homeless people out of gutters doesn’t mean you are. And it doesn’t make any of those noble callings any less noble.

Jesus didn’t tell Paul to lead people on an exodus, and He didn’t tell Moses to preach to the Gentiles. He didn’t tell Elijah to sacrifice his own son and He didn’t tell Isaac to call fire down from heaven. Jesus tells everyone what He wants them to do, in His own way, at His own time, and He tailors His approach to different people.

Is it so hard to live with the fact that we are not all the same, nor can we all be expected to serve Him the same way? That all teaching does not apply equally to all of us? Each of us has our own individual calling, our own way of worshipping, that God designed exactly and specifically for us. Don’t let fellow believers or anybody else try to take that wondrous, unique thing away from you.

In fact, what if we didn’t feel like we just have to do, do, do, do, do all the time to make Him happy? He doesn’t need us to do stuff for Him. He can do everything for Himself. He chooses to give us things to do, but that doesn’t define our worth. What does? Just being. He made us. That should be a good enough reason to exist.

Maybe we shouldn’t focus so much on being called to do stuff. Maybe we should focus on those callings that we forget about so easily, those callings that apply to every single one of us. Maybe we should be rejoicing over the great, universal callings instead of fighting over the unique ones.

We are all called to the promise of an eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15). We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation that has been called out of darkness, called to marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). We all called to inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9b). We are all called unto His eternal glory (1 Peter 5:10). We are all called the sons of God (1 John 3:1).

And, no matter how much we want to squabble over what this or that Bible verse means, it is written:

8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9a).

Are you called to preach? To serve? To convert? To worship? God only knows, and only He can tell you. But He promises you this: You are called to a mighty eternal inheritance, to marvellous light.

Rejoice evermore.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Let me admit it, I’m a total sucker for those cute self-portraits of a person and their horse. While I do have a cool selfie of Skye and I, this week’s photo is a random shot of me with my favourite stallion in the whole entire world. Juistzoo Reed does not belong to me; he is a stud stallion at Ruach Pinto Sport Horses, and his pony-sized palomino pinto frame is dwarfed by the mighty bulks of the other stallions, but he has a gentle spirit and a kind heart. Perhaps it’s because I root for underdogs, perhaps it’s because there’s a beauty in Reed that goes deeper than his skin, or perhaps it’s just because he is so freaking adorable. But he remains unashamedly my favourite.

RuachReed1

On a more serious note, while a self-portrait taken with a phone takes just a moment to snap, the self-portrait you carry around inside yourself takes years to paint in shades of memory. Walking the tightrope between pride and self-hatred is not an easy task, and issues related to self-esteem are rampant in today’s world. So readers, what do you believe is the ideal healthy self-portrait or self-perception? And how does your own self-perception measure up to it?

The Beams in Our Eyes

Ever seen that quirky BBC series, Sherlock? Yes? Good, now relax, I’m not here to squeak about Benedict Cumberbatch. I’m thinking of a scene in the episode “The Sign of Three”. Our favourite high-functioning sociopath (Sherlock Holmes, for those who haven’t seen it) is giving a best man speech at Dr. Watson’s wedding. Only, this being a murder mystery series, it’s not long before Sherlock discovers that there’s a murderer known as the Mayfly Man at the party. Mid-speech, Sherlock looks down at his audience and in his mind, white-lettered labels pop up above the heads of all the guests. First, looking for the murderer, they say “Mayfly Man?” Then, looking for a potential victim, they say “Target?”

Okay, so it’s a cool scene, but I’m not here to talk about scenes, either. I’m here to talk about judgment, and labels. And while we’re not all detectives looking for Mayfly Men and their victims, many of us have a habit of giving people labels. They’re seldom flattering.

“She’s so stuck up.”

“He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.”

“You’re so paranoid.”

“He’s stupid.”

“She’s lazy.”

For people who live in a society where tolerance is everything, where freedom of speech and religious toleration are perceived to be the highest ideals to aspire to, we’re pretty intolerant.

For the children of the God who loved us enough to die for us, Who is love itself, we’re pretty judgmental.

Judging is so quick to stand in the way of love, to blind us to beauty. Jesus says that we need to quit telling everyone around us about the dust in their eyes when we have beams in ours (see Luke 6). No, those ain’t sunbeams, people: they’re big, heavy wooden beams, the type that holds up roofs. Exactly how much can we see past those things? Probably not a whole lot.

Of course not. When we judge somebody, we don’t see anything beautiful about them. When we reach the stop street where the beggar holds up his sign, we roll up the window. All we see is the sign and the dirt and the stubble. All we see is that label that hovers over his head: “Beggar”. Okay, so he’s a beggar. And if “Beggar” was the only label he had, who cares? That’s what he is. Not who, perhaps, but what.

But “Beggar” is not the only label we give that man. “Beggar” is not only a label, it’s a mindmap, with hundreds of real labels connected to it. Labels like “lazy”, “drugs”, “weak”, “inferior” surround him, and we are too busy concentrating on ourselves to give him a chance to prove otherwise. He’s just a beggar, after all. A stereotype cut out of society’s perceptions and our own past experiences. Why should we toss the guy a loaf of bread? It’s not like he’ll do anything in return. He might not even – gasp! – appreciate it!

Jesus died to save the men that killed Him just as much as he died for you and me and Paul of Tarsus. You and me and Paul might have appreciated – in as much as a human being can appreciate anything of Him – what He did, but how many people out there don’t appreciate a thing He ever did, and throw it back in His face? Probably plenty. How much do you think we can repay Him for what He did? Exactly nothing. But He did it anyway. He died for people who might hate him for the rest of their lives. Is it that hard to give a bread to a beggar or a smile to a colleague or, you know what, a hug to a family member? Jesus says, “Lend, hoping for nothing again” (Luke 6:35), and “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them” (Luke 6:32). Sometimes we’re pretty sucky at loving people who love us, let alone our enemies. Because we label them. Our vision is so clouded by judgment, so blocked by those beams in our eyes that we can’t see past the labels we give people.

So what do we do? How to get rid of that beam in our eyes? Jesus says, “Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye” (Luke 6:42). This might give you pause, because did you see what He did there? He just gave you a label: “Hypocrite”. This is because Jesus can judge. Yes, He may, because He knows everything about you and is perfectly pure and righteous and just, so of course He can judge you. His judgment is true, and He can judge you and love you at the same time – because He’s God. He can judge perfectly and love perfectly at the same time.

Human judgment is very nearly always wrong. “She’s stupid”, we say. Maybe she’s just tired, maybe she has a huge battle to fight that’s swallowed up every grain of energy and brainpower she has, and she just doesn’t have any left for school or work or whatever it is that we’re basing our judgment on. “He’s arrogant”, we say. Maybe he’s desperately insecure, hiding that insecurity behind a veil of overconfidence. Maybe he thinks “arrogant” is a better label than “vulnerable”. There aren’t always excuses for everyone, but when you stop judging and starting using the opposite of judgment, it doesn’t matter.

So what is the opposite and conqueror of judgment? Only one thing can cast out the beam: love. Oh, there’s innocence and ignorance as well, they can prevent you from labelling someone: but only love looks at a labelled person and says, “I know you are flawed. I know you too often get angry or drunk or high or self-righteous or arrogant. I know all these things and I still love you. I still think you’re beautiful.”

There is a difference between judging and observing with the intent of understanding. Observation says, “That girl is treating that guy so badly.”

Judgment says, “That girl treats the guy so badly. She’s such a terrible person. I’m not going to go near her, she doesn’t deserve my company. She’d probably hurt me anyways.”

An attempt to understand says, “That girl is treating that guy so badly. I wonder why she’s doing that. Maybe she’s having a really bad day. Or maybe she is just a hateful person. I’m going to find out.”

Love is better than all of those, because love says, “Wow! She’s treating him really badly. I wonder why she’s doing that. Maybe something’s hurting her, or maybe she just treats people that way. Either way, it’s not my place to say what’s up with her. I still like her anyway.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And when you love somebody, they are absolutely beautiful. Oh, sure, you know their flaws; if you love them properly you know them and seek to understand them, you want to know why they do these things and you understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths. But your vision isn’t clouded by judgment when you love them. You understand that they’re not always perfect. You know that sometimes their flaws run deep and dark. But you can still see that incredible radiance of their goodness, you can still revel in the amazingness of their strengths. You still love them and they are still beautiful. And that false human judgment cannot stand in the way of real love.

Judgment says, “You’re so paranoid.” Denial or fear of hurting someone says, “No, it’s fine, you’re not paranoid.” Love says, “You’re paranoid and you can change that, but either way, it’s okay. I still love you.”

That’s what Jesus is saying to us in Luke 6:42. “You’re a hypocrite and I want you to fix it. But it’s okay. I still love you.”

You see, even though when you love Jesus completely you strive to please Him, it doesn’t really matter what we do or leave undone. When our hearts are with Him, we are safe. Nothing we can ever do can make Him love us more or less. He already loves you as much as it is possible to be loved, and with God there is no impossible, so that is a very, very big amount of love.

This is real unconditional love. The love that says, “I know, but I still love you. I would still die for you. I can still see the beauty in you.” The opposite of judgment. The casting out of the beam. We have the perfect role model; let us let go of judgment, and love instead.

Lord, that we may love the way You love us. How beautiful a place our world would become.