Colossians 1:21-23 (ESV) – 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
I was a resistant pastor. Having grown up in the glass house of the pastor’s home, I knew firsthand how unChristlike the Body of Christ could be. I had seen good too, but I definitely did not want the scrutiny and unrealistic expectations for my family. Being part of the clergy is a blessing, but it comes with responsibility for the children that they did not sign up for. So, why do it?
Simply put: it is a calling – an imperfectly beautiful calling. It is not a job, a vocation, or work. Though there are definitely parts that are work. But more than that, it is a calling that cannot be ignored, which hits deep in the soul of the receiver .
Paul’s Damascus Road experience as recorded in Acts 9 demonstrates this perfectly. A persecutor of the Church, he was the last person anyone would have expected to be preaching the gospel of Jesus; yet when Jesus called, and Paul (Saul) understood, everything changed. God could not be ignored.
In Colossians 1, Paul talks about this very calling, and it’s dynamic importance – not just in his life but from a cosmic standpoint. Why has Paul become a minister? Because God takes hostile, alienated, lost, broken, bruised, belligerent, and horrific sinners (of which he was counted), and by the blood of Jesus turns them into his friends and even children… children deserving life and glory and the inheritance of heaven. He turns from wrath to mercy. He turns from condemnation to reconciliation. All this occurs because of the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus took Paul’s place. Jesus took our place.
When Paul came to realize the truth everything changed for him. He sought, in the power of God’s Spirit, to live a life vastly different than the one before… one that was marked by a grateful obedience to the God who had sacrificially saved him. For Paul, it was more than a vocation, it was more than even a calling, it was his hope for everything. He put everything in… Lock, stock and barrel.
Modern believers in the West are pretty good at riding the line between holiness and worldliness. We want to stand for the gospel only insofar as we can still have all the luxuries and comforts everyone else has. We want to “put God first” and live grateful lives for what Jesus has done for us but only if it doesn’t mean sacrificing too much. But I think that is an unstable faith – a faith that is marked by compromise rather than devotion… a faith that is marked concession rather than fidelity.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that. I want to hold onto the steadfast reality that Jesus loves me so much that he would die for me for a purpose. And this purpose is not just to give me a heavenly street address when I pack up the earthly U-Haul, but one that has definite ramifications now. My prayer for my own soul is to live a life that is more holy and different. I pray for a more boldness for the truth of Jesus. I pray for a more compassionate heart to love others like Jesus loved me. I pray for a more forgiving spirit because of the forgiving Spirit of Jesus.
“Lord, hear my prayer.”