In Christian circles, the word “call” often gets tossed around quite a bit, without much inspection or definition. For us, calling isn’t a category for those who pursue some form of recognized ministry (paid or volunteer). Calling is about answering the questions: Why are we here? What are our lives about? What are we to make of being human? Who is a good person and what is the good life and how do I get it?
Calling isn’t about doing a specific job, attending a specific school, marrying this person or that person or staying single, or buying this house or that house. Certainly God may have an opinion on those matters, but ultimately, they are choices that we are responsible for making. This is why Augustine said, “Love God and do what you like.” All of Scriptures are filled with what we referred to as the “Primary Call”, namely, bearing the image of Jesus in our specific day-to-day life is our calling. It is easy to think that calling is the same as a job, or doing specific mission work, or making a finite choice.
Rather, calling is about being a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is someone who is learning from another how to do something. The word “disciple” has the same roots as the word “learning”. A disciple is an apprentice, a student, a learner. Hence, in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as “Teacher” before He is referred to as Lord, Victor, or Messiah. Do what Jesus instructs, follow his commands and put His teachings into practice and you will come to see Him as Lord, Victor and the Messiah. That’s the route the disciples took.
We are all disciples of someone, or rather, a lot of someones. All the magazines, tv-shows, Instagram posts and preachers are all trying to be your teacher. We all have people, groups, or media that seeks to answer for us those questions we asked at the top of this article.
Most of us do the “do what we like” part of Augustine’s quote and ignore the “Love God” component. But, loving God is doing what God wants. As Jesus said, “when you follow my commands, you’re loving me.” Doing what Jesus said to do is loving God. To be able to “do what we like” has to coincide with the “love God” aspect of Augustine’s quote. If we are doing what Jesus said to do, then, matters like which school to attend, which job to take, or who to date will fall in line. This is parallel to the teaching of Jesus to “seek first the Kingdom of God and all the rest will given to you.” To be blunt, we can’t expect God to give us a specific “calling” if we are ignoring and neglecting the primary call we’ve already been given in Scripture. Obviously God can and has done that in the past, but its not the route God normally takes. If we are deceitful, causing damage to our neighbors, plotting destruction, conspiring in lust, acting in greed and otherwise ignoring the teachings of Jesus, when we need to make a decision about something important, God may be silent on that matter because we haven’t wanted Him around in the other areas of our lives.
So if our primary call is to be a disciple, then what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Simply put, a disciple of Jesus is someone who is rearranging the affairs of his, her, or their life to the ends of becoming like Jesus. It is about living your life the way Jesus would live your life if He were you. Now, He can’t live your life. Only you can live your life, and Jesus already lived His life. But, being a disciple is actively seeking to have the character of Jesus, and to approach our day-to-day in loving and harmonious relationship with the Father, avoiding what is harmful and choosing what is good for others.
In order to do that, we need to be with our Teacher. To learn from someone and to become like someone we have to engage with that person. It was easier for Peter and John because they could physically walk with, sleep next to, share a meal with Jesus as they moved about the Middle East. For us, we engage in things like prayer, reading Scripture, interior conversation with the Spirit, musical worship, and acts of service as ways of being with Jesus, learning from Him and seeing His power, provisions and presence in our lives.
As we move towards summer we’ll talk about the role of service, specifically GUMY’s summer missions in our discipleship-both in ways we’ve gotten it wrong and in ways that we’re seeking to remedy that.