Where This is Coming From
Some time ago I wrote an article about relational evangelism where I began to unpack my favorite term, Front-loading the Gospel. In that article I spoke about the reality wherein modern people identify with their occupation more than anything else. I explained that Christians need to experience a paradigm shift of sorts and begin to introduce themselves as Christians. My emphasis was on bringing the Gospel to bear on neighbors and strangers. With this essay I want to expand on that thought a bit. In the end I want you to dwell in the truth that you are more than what you do.
As hard as it is for us to fathom, we are not our jobs or our careers. More importantly, those things are meaningless for the Christian if that person isn’t bringing that “identity” into submission to God through the Gospel.
You are More Than Your Location
One of the greatest areas of pride for Americans, well frankly almost all people really, is their place of origin. However, this is predominantly problematic in the USA. We label ourselves according to our ancestry. We label ourselves according to the states and even the cities we were born in.
Often, many will even take pride in where they live now over where they are from. I have literally met hundreds of people in my adult life that look down their noses at us Midwestern folk. Apparently, we have no culture compared to people from the two left coasts. As a resident of Minnesota, I can attest to two things. We have culture, and there is no such thing as the “Minnesota Nice” that Minnesotans pride themselves on.
Yet, Paul really despises this form of secularism and it shows in Galatians 3: 23-29. In fact, what Paul lays out is that being identified with Christ makes us descendants of Abraham. If anything, our location and our ethnic heritage are of no consequence in the eyes of God. We are all now in Christ and those things have passed away.
When we continue to take pride in our ethnic origins or geographical location after our redemption as sons and daughters, we are telling the world that those things are more important than being identified with Christ. My Christian friends you are more than your location. Far more!
You are More Than Your Glory Years
Not that any believer really believes that they have glory years. But there is a little of Al Bundy in all of us. We are constantly referring to the distant past where we accomplished some amazing feat. I am over thirty years removed from breaking the five-minute mark in the 1600/mile in track. I bet it comes up in conversation at least three times a year. But why? What compels me to bring it up even that often? Who am I trying to impress and for what reason? Honestly, the feat isn’t even all that impressive compared to others.
Even still, how many of us allow these thoughts to permeate our thinking? Strangely enough, many of us forget who we were before Christ when it comes to our sins. We have no problem talking about the great things we did or accomplished but rarely will we tell others about how sinful we were or about the depths of our depravity. I am not calling for a morbid introspection that always ends in gushing confession. What I am talking about is the lack of transparency many Christians seem to embrace.
I am not big on testimonial witnessing. You know that method wherein you try and preach the Gospel from your life. It certainly has its place in context of evangelism directed towards those who knew us before. But it serves little to no purpose when trying to relate to complete strangers who know nothing about us. Just as I am wont to tell my new neighbor about how horrible I was when it comes to the context of sexual depravity, what purpose would it serve to “brag about past accomplishments”? None. I really don’t have glory days. Consider Paul’s words in Philippians 3. You are more than your glory years.
Does Your Career Communicate Your Worth?
This is something that we all need to think about. Strangely enough one would think that the Christian worldview would answer the question readily. But it seems there has been struggle in this regard for centuries. From the early days of the Church it seems that cultural influences were hard to shake from the thought process. James addressed sinful partiality in his epistle. He made it clear that the wealthy should not be given seats of favor in the church.
Often the idea of career or occupation has stepped in to fill the void of wealthy opulence that James was addressing in chapter two of his epistle. Today, doctors and lawyers and CEOs and politicians take seats of prominence in many congregations. Even more partiality is shown to the celebrities who profess Christ. But does the career of the person or their wealth and popularity make them indispensable to the Church?Hardly.
Sometimes, those positions can serve as a stumbling block to some. Moreover, how do we view the laborers in the midst of the congregation? Are carpenters and bricklayers or garbage men as valued by the entire body as anyone else? What of the woman striving for Titus 2 living?
We could go on and on with this thought process. But we cannot err only on the side of checking our attitudes when it comes to the wealthy and prominent. Today, sinful partiality is often shown to the destitute and unwanted in society. Where many congregations once wanted nothing to do with the unwashed masses of the world, today the rage is to show how sensitive we are to the oppressed by rejecting the wealthy brothers. Even the idea of wealth is now considered sinful by many.
You are more than your career. Far more!
Addressing the Context of 1 Corinthians 11:17-22
There is a tendency to ignore the context of this passage and move straight to the sacrament of communion. This passage says as much to us about partiality as does James 2. Many biblical scholars and theologians believe that as the poor Christians worked and labored the rich slave owners of the church gathered and turned the Lord’s table into a party. By the time the laborers and more agrarian types were able to join in, the food and drink were depleted, if not gone.
This passage was a harsh rebuke from Paul. And it is one that we seem to think we are immune from today because we do not gather for the Lord’s table the same way that they did then. But here is my thought. Do we stay in preferred comfort zones when we do gather together? Do we look to only interact with people of a certain caliber and quality? What of our outside/secular interests? Do we look only for like-minded folks to associate with when meeting with the body? Are we telling others, “You are more or less insignificant to me…” based on how we interact with them when gathered as the local body?
You are More Than Hobbies and Past-times
Often, we relate to one another based on our extra-curricular activities. Hunting, fishing, golfing, arts and crafts and on and on. Consequently, we build special interest groups within the WCC geared towards leading people of like interest together. Unfortunately, when this happens, that orbit starts to absorb people from outside of the Christian worldview.
On the face this seems like a good thing. What concerns me is that as with everything, we become more identified by our hobbies and interests than by our faith in Christ. It was often said that Spurgeon would talk affectionately of his predecessor John Bunyan. His most famous gushing about Bunyan was this, “If you cut him, he’d bleed Scripture (bibline).” So, what does this have to do with hobbies and past-times? I ask you, “are you more well-known for how you invest your time and money into hobbies than you are for how much you talk about Christ?”
I am not dismissing a healthy place for activities that are not specifically “Christian”. If you are a snowmobiler, by-all-means have a blast during the winter. However, is everything you talk about centered around that? If you need to be catered too in your hobbies and past-times to be able to maintain your interest, is it possible that you have an idol?
Instead, let us consider how our past-times and hobbies can be shaped and fitted to be tools used for the Glory of God. Sure, it may seem hard to imagine a way in which the person that is passionate about Underwater Basket Weaving can do it for the Glory of God, but all things right? I mean really? But after all, you are more than your hobbies.
You are More Than Your Career
We home-educate(d) our children. A common question that we are often faced with centers around the careers they are pursuing and the schooling options they are looking at. “So, what are you going to go to college for?” “What do you want to study? Is there something you are good at?”
I understand why these questions arise. They flow from a modern mindset that says education has only been a success if a student/graduate is on a career track that will net them a high-paying job in their preferred career choice. You are more likely to be guided toward college/university than you would be a trade. And, no one is ever guided into the world of retail or “menial” labor.
Even in the world of Evangelicalism there is a drive toward higher education for the purpose of a career track. Young men are constantly driven towards the pastorate in many churches. Nowhere is this more common than in Fundamentalism. I lived in that world for some time. I saw the push often. No thought is given to whether a young man is being called by God to pastor. They are just pointed in that direction and set “on mission”.
Sadly, the idea that you are more than your career is met with soft hostility and derision. When is the last time that you met a parent that joyfully announced that their child has chosen to become a “garbage man”? If this did happen more than likely it would be changed to “mobile sanitary disposal specialist”.
But where is the worth and value of a person found? Why do we spend so much time obsessing over careers or the directions our children decide to go? Short of choosing a life of crime, you are more than your career…
Your Identity is in Christ!
Paul said something simply profound and utterly beautiful in 1 Corinthians 15. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then those of us who believe He did are the most to be pitied. This is where we find our identity.
If you are trusting in Christ as your savior! If you are an adopted child of God! Then you are more than anything else that identifies you. Remember that Paul calls all these things trash (skubalon) when compared to the surpassing value of Christ.
God warns us about trusting in earthly strength and power and the trappings of success. I would suggest that you are more interested in identifying in your career or hobbies or place of residence or any other earthly identity, you have lost sight of your identity in God.
I will go a step further. As all of mankind is made Imago Dei, they too are more than what they perceive themselves to be. While the lost cannot be identified with Christ, they are still Imago Dei. As Image Bearers of the God they should be compelled to find their worth in even that marred image.
It is this that should compel us to become so Christo-centric that instead of identifying with what we do, we identify what we do with Christ. I believe that this in turn will point us outward toward the others who do not know Christ and propel us toward Gospel Advancement. Bringing the Gospel to bear on our fellow Imago Dei will result in a change in mindset and worldview that will be to the benefit of all mankind. But more importantly it will bring Glory to God!
Soli Deo Gloria!