Imagine you are in church 500 years ago. The clergy were the only ones who could read and understand the Bible. The clergy were the only ones that received the full communion of bread and wine. The ordained ministers made decisions about people’s spiritual lives as well as lots of other decisions in public life. Being an ordained minister during that time meant the clergy had a very special and specific calling and often took advantage, even abusing the authority and calling of The Church.
Then, a man came along who could not submit to the authority of the clergy because of how he interpreted the Scriptures in regard to the calling of God. Among many other groundbreaking declarations of faith, Martin Luther said all work, vocations whether sacred or secular, were genuine callings for God.
“The essence of Christian living lies in serving God in one’s calling whether secular or ecclesiastical. All useful callings, he said, are equally sacred in God’s eye.” Bruce L. Shelley Church History in Plain Language, pg 142.
By making such bold statements, Martin Luther was the match that lit the fire of the Reformation and changed history forever.
Martin Luther was the first man to look at Scripture and say that all work is holy (not just the work of clergy) because all people have been called by God.
We benefit from this declaration today.
Ephesians 4:1 says,
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul encouraged the Christians there to live up to their calling in Christ. The Greek meaning of the word ‘calling’ in that passage means to call, invite, or summon. So, God’s calling is to invite us into relationship with Him through believing and accepting Jesus as our Savior and becoming part of the Body of Christ.
For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9
Even though we’ve come a long way from the transformation of the Reformation, we still get caught in the trap of thinking only special people are called to do God’s work, and the rest of us just kinda follow along. If you have a “calling” on your life, then you lead some kind of full time ministry which might feel a little more special than just everyday, secular work.
I have been guilty of that line of thinking. Being in church ministry or having a special calling meant that ‘maybe’ I was just a little more special than everybody else. That maybe, God had just a little extra favor for me. I also sincerely believed serving God in a sacred ministry was proof of how I was a really good Christian and how much I really, really loved God. In His mercy, though, God helped me realize that I didn’t need ministry* like that anymore. Since then, He has helped me to see that all the work I pursue (home, school, daily tasks) are equal in His eyes to benefit the Kingdom.
Understanding Martin Luther’s revelation that everyone has a calling was groundbreaking because everyone has an invitation to receive Christ. God extends this summons to all people to become part of the Body.
In addition, any ministry, mission, vision, work, pursuit…etc….must be founded in relationship with God- not the other way around. Sometimes, we get it backwards. While our statements of belief proclaim relationship must come first, our actions betray us when we serve and work as if we’re trying to be good enough for acceptance.
God is calling you to simply be with Him before you do anything for Him!
Who you are in Christ is NOT the same as What you do for Christ!
Have you responded to God’s invitation to relationship with Him?
Have you fallen into the trap of thinking you don’t have a calling or that your calling isn’t ‘special’ because it’s not in a church setting?
If you participate in regular church ministry, do you find yourself acting as if you must perform well in order maintain an acceptable status before God?
We’re going to keep this conversation going. Next time, we’ll talk about how All Ministry is Equal!