From observation and experience, I believe it is safe to presume that ingrained in every human being is a desire to do something great with our lives–to make our short stint in this world count for something. Perhaps greater than the fear of death is this fear that we would have finished our lives unnoticed by the world and that our very existence would be forgotten by most soon after we die. For while we all know that we are mortal and that we shall all die (be it ten years or sixty years from now), many, if not all, of us feel that if we can be remembered for something after we die, we will achieve some sort of immortality in this world.
And while we who are Christians profess our immortality to be vested Elsewhere, we are certainly not exempt from this desire to be remembered in this age. And while our ambitions might be sanctified to some degree when compared to those of the world, the underlying desire is the same—to be remembered on this earth after we have passed from it.
Therefore, it is not surprising that many of us find ourselves discontent when we find that our lives on this earth are anything but extraordinary. And it is for this reason that when titles such as “The Purpose Driven Life” find their way into bookstores, they fly off the shelf in the millions. We desire purpose, we desire a high calling, and, most of all, we desire the path of remembrance.
Yet in spite of this, we must consider the possibility that we will not be remembered by this world. Even more, we must consider that we might not be called to be remembered by this world. For what if some of us who call ourselves Christians are called to fulfill what the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, namely to live “a quiet and peaceful life, godly and dignified in every way” (1Tim. 2:2)? What if our purpose is to submit to one another, to our governments, and to God in all things so as to make ourselves of little consequence to the worldly system around us? For as the bumper sticker concerning women is true, namely, “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History,” so it is true of all us, namely, “Well-Behaved People Seldom Make History.” For history loves to remember revolutionists.
This is not to say that the call to discipleship is not an extraordinary call, nor is to say that following Christ is not a revolutionary call, but it is to say that the call to discipleship, as utterly revolutionary as it may be when compared to the world, may not be one that lands our name in the annals of this world. In fact, when we think of it, it is quite revolutionary to desire a life that is quiet and peaceful and desires godliness over remembrance. For even in Christianity we find that we are always on mission or desirous to be on mission about something, whether it be the Great Commission, increasing our church sizes, or conservative politics, so that we scarcely have the time or desire to be quiet and peaceful. Godliness and holiness takes the back seat to greater things, and loving the church—our brothers and sisters in Christ—takes the back seat to that which is bigger, namely the unconverted world and its system.
And this is not to say that these grandiose aspirations are not important or that they have no place in Christian thought, but what if, perhaps, our focus is backwards? What if those grandiose things which we esteem the most should be secondary and a fruit of that which is primary, namely that which is quiet and peaceful? What if those things which are grandiose are contingent upon that which is in our estimations not, and what if our neglect of the lesser, “easier,” and less memorable things is inhibiting the fulfillment of the greater things?
Take for example the Great Commission from Matthew 28. It is a grandiose commission calling for the church to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded us. What we must ask ourselves concerning this commission given by our Lord is is it a commission that stands alone or is it one that is predicated by a certain manner of living? Granting what Christ had taught in the previous twenty-seven chapters and the other Gospels, we see that a certain manner of living must exist prior to the fulfillment of this commission. We must love one another (i.e. the church) as Christ has loved us (cf. Jn. 14:34), we must love God with all our being (cf. Mt. 22:37), we must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (cf. Mt. 22:21), we must take up our crosses daily (cf. Lk. 9:23), we must sell our possessions and give to the poor (cf. Mt. 19:21), we must love the least of Christ’s brothers (cf. Mt. 25:40), etc. For how are we going to fulfill the Great Commission that Christ gave to his church, namely to make disciples who observe his commandments if we are not those who are his disciples by following his commandments?
The common problem that exists is that there is a misunderstanding as the what the Great Commission really is. Christ says, “Make disciples who observe my commandments,” and we read, “I am sending you on a urgent rescue mission to save the lost.” For this reason, we often overlook the command for obedience and replace it with a command to preach the Gospel as quickly as possible to minimize the number of souls going to hell. Therefore, we make foreign missions our chief goal, and everything that we do as the church revolves around preaching the Gospel in some form or another, whether rightly or wrongly. Ironically, by doing thus, we thwart the design of the Great Commission altogether. For if we first looked to the church and demanded her obedience to Christ’s commands, then we would first love our brothers and sisters as Christ loved us. By doing so, by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ whether at home or abroad, we would declare to the world we are Christ’s, for he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). And by doing this, we would pave the way for the Gospel and the Great Commission, for by our love for the church in obedience to Christ’s command, God will draw his people to himself.
This is not to say that there is no place for preaching the Gospel where there is no church, but it is to say that it should flow from our love for Christ’s church. And to bring this back to the original subject, this love that flows from our obedience to Christ may not be the path for remembrance or glory. Our part in obeying Christ might be simply (“simply” meaning “humanly impossible”) to live a quiet, godly life, submitting to one another in all things, and loving the church as best we can in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We may never be granted the opportunity to be at the forefront of the “mission field,” and we may only be granted the small sphere to which we are presently assigned, loving our brothers and our neighbors as best we can, being salt in that place that lacks salt. Whether we are called to remain where we are or are commissioned to “grander” things, we should be content in eating and drinking to the glory of God (cf. 1Cor. 10:31).