Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Audacious or Ordinary?

In recent years I have noted an increasing emphasis by pastors and other teachers to express that the normal Christian lives in a gregarious or extrovert manner: anything less is missing God’s plan for your life.  Terms such as radical, audacious, and outrageous are freely (and overly) used to spur believers from a place of lethargy to a state of high alert to make the gospel known to every other person by whatever means necessary, or spur them into being crowning examples of how the Christian life is to be lived in the fullness of the Spirit.  Heroes of the faith—the first disciples or those who gave all on the mission field—are brought out as examples to mimic.  The hype replaces the work being done by the Holy Spirit, so that zeal is mistaken for Spirit-filling.  Inflamed by a holy desire to win every person for Christ, believers pour forth initial boundless energy until finally strength wanes because of self-reliance or overwork.  Stumbling dazed and confused, they wonder why the Lord would allow such a thing in this holy pursuit.  The problem is that not every Christian is called to be the apostle Paul or Hudson Taylor.  Usually, we are called to be more like Aquila and Priscilla: ordinary, boring followers of Christ.

Of those believers mentioned in the New Testament, few would have a more mundane existence that Aquila and Priscilla.  This Jewish couple were tentmakers, originally living in Rome.  When Claudius commanded all Jews to leave, they moved to Corinth where they plied their trade and met up with Paul on his second missionary journey, then finally to Ephesus where they met Apollos and instructed him of Christ more correctly (Acts 18:1-26).  Maybe this seems to be a big deal, but when you look closely, there is nothing to see.  As opposed to Paul, who received an apostolic commission from the Lord Jesus Himself on the way to Damascus and was later confirmed by the Holy Spirit at Antioch, Aquila and Priscilla were normal people with a family business who found ways to share the gospel while in their vocations.  No great call was received, no great vision to evangelize the world, no impassioned message to be outrageous for Christ.  All they had was an everyday existence lived in the gospel.

There are two epistles written early in the apostolic era that explain how the typical believer is to be and act.  The first comes from James:
Who is wise and understanding among you?  By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  (Jas 3:13-18)
Do you understand things better than everyone else on the planet?  Fine.  Show it by your good, peaceable, gentle conduct.  The wise man does not get into someone’s face or try to convince against the will, rather there is reason and sincerity.  Maybe you are smarter and wiser than the person breathing your air, but the Lord has made known that He desires you to sow in peace, and that yields the harvest of righteousness.

The next epistle text comes from Paul:
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.  But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.  (1 Thess 4:9-12)
Paul desires the zealous believers in Thessalonica who have made a name for themselves by their zeal in the gospel to live quietly and mind your own affairs.  That is how one lives properly before their neighbor.

There are multiple sources that call for us to tout the audacious Christian life; God works through ordinary means.  He may exalt any one of his children depending on the circumstance and need, but until that happens, be ordinary, be true.

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