The way we use language is so important. In regular conversation it can reveal much about our attitudes and beliefs. In the Church, especially, we must be careful and intentional about how we use language. Those new to this strange faith and who may not understand “Christianese” may become confused by the mixed metaphors that people who have been in the church for many years may not even notice.
One of the issues that came to my attention a while back is how believers claim the identity of God’s adopted children but then ask to be used by God. It struck me how strange it would be for a child to approach their father and ask, “Hey Dad, could you use my services today?” My dad would probably give his odd daughter a strange look and a hug, laugh, then ask me to stay for dinner. But isn’t that exactly what we do? We seek and ask for our grand purpose in life, desperately searching for that specific mystical “thing” God put us on the earth to do. All the while we are blind or ignorant to the ways we can show God’s love to others with the gifts and talents God has already given us! We claim one belief, but through our language, proclaim that selflessness means abandoning our own identities, needs and desires for those of the divine Taskmaster. In effect, we make ourselves God’s slaves. Sound about right? But I ask: Is that who Jesus was?
It all started at Creation. God created Adam, the first human, but he kinda messed things up. So God sent someone else to show us how we should have been, and to fix the mess Adam started. It struck me that God chose to send Jesus in the role of a son, a child, a dearly loved and cared for Prince. Yes, this means he had responsibilities and specific jobs to fulfill. Praise God he fulfilled his purpose! But he did that as a son who was humble and obedient to his loving father. He was not a slave with no identity taking orders from a ruthless divine task master. We also are to be little Christs, to imitate Jesus. Our relationship to God should be Father to son & daughter, not Master to slave.
There are many harmful results of this attitude. In the local church body, if those whose professions, passions and interests don’t line up with the needs for which the church is asking, they may feel they have nothing to offer. This attitude also leaves out the love of God and how much he cares about every human being, turning God’s children into robots. The purpose of the Christian is not to be some cosmic puzzle solver, discovering illusive clues sprinkled throughout our journey through life. Our purpose is not hidden somewhere in the recesses of our lives while God sits in heaven barking out orders for us to follow. No, God the Father gave us a model to follow. It needs to become deeply rooted into our identity enough to permeate our language.
Sometimes it helps to bring it down to an earthly analogy. When my dad needs help with something, I don’t go knock on their door and say, “Father, I am here. Use me how you will.” He would laugh in my face! No, I walk in the house, without knocking, and announce that I’m there. Then I ask, “How can I help? What do you need me to do?” If it is a project that we do together, our relationship is strengthened because we have accomplished something and have spent quality time together. If it is a task I do alone, I am satisfied that I have helped relieve a burden for him, or allow him to focus his attention elsewhere in the meantime. It’s not a perfect analogy, but our relationship with God, then, also deepens the more willing we are to work with Him as obedient, loving children. Many times, the result of this type of relationship is also deeper relationships with both believers and with people who may then see Jesus through that relationship.
This is my prayer for all who read this. Think about it. Let it change how you relate to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the mysterious Holy Spirit.
With much love,