I’ve almost finished this series exploring the language of ‘call’. Read from the beginnig HERE.
In my previous post, I moved from God’s general call on all Christians — to belong to him and to be swept up in his mission — to considering the way some people sometimes speak of a special call (or ‘burden’) God places on them to serve a particular place, people-group, or project.
I suggested that there were some things this way of talking can help us safeguard. But I also need to highlight some of the reasons why I’m hesitant to talk this way.
To begin with, I wonder if such language can lead us to overspiritualise decision-making, leading to a pervasive and soul-destroying anxiety about ‘missing out on God’s will for our lives’.
All our decisions are spiritual in some sense. And they should be shaped in response to God’s grace to us in Jesus. But one of the key — and most frequently overlooked — aspects of this is Christian freedom. Let me explain:
I could worry away about what I choose to eat for breakfast every day, weighing up how it will help or hinder me in caring responsibly for my own body, the planet, and the people God has given me to love and serve. But I’m not sure the gospel encourages such paralysing introspection — and certainly not on a daily basis.
Instead, it tells me (a) that I can and will blunder in this regard — failing to care responsibly for myself, God’s world, and God’s people — and (b) that God graciously accepts me without regard to my success or failure in this.
So, in my view, to expend considerable emotional energy on this amounts to a refusal to trust what the gospel says about me. (I could also go on to speak about how it also romantically and individualistically refuses to trust what God says about the good gifts he gives us in our decision-making faculties as well as in the community of his people and the wider giftings of ‘common grace’ — all of which both stand in need of redemption and sanctification and can and are redeemed and sanctified in Jesus Christ.)
What’s more, the kind of obsessive introspective worry talk of a particular ‘call’ sometimes invites tends to treat our actions and motives as transparent to us in a way that I don’t believe is possible. As Jeremiah says, ‘the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things — beyond finding out’.
By contrast, we take hold of our freedom in Christ when we’re bold and prayerful not only in trivial, everyday decisions but also in apparently more significant decisions (and who of us knows ahead of time which of our decisions will prove truly significant and life-shaping?). This includes decisions we make as we seek to respond faithfully to Christ’s call to ‘Go’ to the ends of the earth in his mission.
Rather than trying to sound the impossible depths of our own hearts, we should listen to Martin Luther and ‘sin boldly’. That is, we should get on with our lives, prayerfully entrusting ourselves to the God who enables us ‘to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2.5) — and confessing our mistakes as and when we inevitably make them!