Free to Be Ordinary but So Much More
I am so impressed with the twenty and thirty-something followers of Jesus on mission to help the world alleviate poverty, injustice, and hunger. Rarely does my week pass without hearing such a report on television, in church, or online. I applaud the courage and faith that it takes to follow God’s call and give up home, career, and material goods to accomplish those dreams.
But what about the rest of us who are ordinary people? Do we read about God’s great work and begin to see ourselves as lesser than, incompetent, or lacking faith? Do we feel guilty for being average—going to a job, loving our families, caring for our neighbors, and volunteering in church and community?
I recently read this post: “Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism.’ We need more ordinary God and people lovers,” (Matt. 22:36-40). The author Anthony Bradley explains: “Today’s millennial generation is being fed the message that if they don’t do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential.”
I don’t know if it is a new legalism, but I do know that it is easy to fall for the lies that tell us that our lives don’t matter in comparison.
I just read the book Kisses from Katie, and I am awed by this young woman who moved to Uganda to follow God’s call on her life. I found myself feeling that my life doesn’t count for much compared to hers. I felt guilty that I hadn’t taken orphans and widows into my home. How could I have wasted my life like this?
Although Katie’s story is inspiring and often convicting, God doesn’t call all of us to the same mission. As we read or hear of such stories, we must remember that there was only one Moses, one Nehemiah, one Daniel, and one Peter. Each of God’s children has a mission, but most of us are simply called to live ordinary lives faithfully. Instead of believing that we make a difference through our conventional lives, however, we impose worldly standards of success as if we are evaluating businesses.
At times those called to big causes seem to suggest that the rest of us should be called to them also. Although I need to be convicted that I have too much when most of the world has little, I don’t need anyone to impose his/her mission on me.
God calls most of us to pursue ordinary lives extraordinarily. God purposes that we show his love to those at work, in our neighborhoods, at our children’s schools, and in our families. We can’t all found a ministry or move to Africa, but we can love others unconditionally, forgive them when they hurt us, and serve them when they have needs. We may never know the difference we will make by being faithful to God’s call to other ordinary, everyday people.
It is time to be set free from comparisons to those called to something great, from guilt over being ordinary, and from feeling unimportant when serving God in everyday ways. Each of us has influence with people and in places where no one else goes, and God has a call for us to grow that influence to make a difference in the world.
As we live that out, we can look forward to hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matt. 25:21).
I think the key verse in the
I think the key verse in the post you mentioned by Anthony Bradley is 1 Thessalonians 4:11, "and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you." This follows v. 10 in which Paul urges the Thessalonians essentially to love each other still more and more, and precedes v. 12 in which he tells them that how they live their daily lives provides a witness to outsiders. So, I don't think he's promoting becoming a Christian recluse in v. 10. Instead, I think he's saying that we shouldn't become so busy (or busybodies) that we fail to do what's most important. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus responded, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’" (Matthew 22:37-39). Being Christ-centered rather than "cause-centered" is our biggest challenge, in my view. It's my daily struggle, in any case.
Loving God and your neighbor
Bradley mentions both love of God and neighbor. If we are faithful to do that where we live and work, it is a truly extraordinary life. Love of others flows out of love of God and may lead to causes which God places on our hearts. Thank you for the reminder that love of God should be the center of it all, whether we are involved in huge ministries or live that love out in ordinary ways.
Thank you, Kay!
Thank you for your words, Kay. For some of us, raising children to be adults who are passionate about Jesus and each serving Him faithfully in their own lives is the most extraordinary thing we can do–above taking on the biggest social challenge. I appreciate what you said.
Melanie, mothering may seem quite ordinary but it makes such a difference, not only in our own children but for the next generation. Thanks for sharing that.