Saturday, September 10, 2016
The choosing God. . .
It is, of course, a terrible injustice. Perhaps the best Greek student I knew ended up a farmer in Kansas. And the best thinker I knew ended up in the foreign service as a diplomat. And the most talented guy in our class ended up spending much of his life in a wistful pursuit of an end never found. Some of the most ordinary men in our class are the ones who now are called Pastor by their people. It is patently unfair and wrong. I should have dropped out and done something else. They were far more capable and pious than I was or am. But the mystery of the Lord's will is that He called me -- not because I was the smartest or the most pious but for His own wisdom, will, and purpose.
Comparing qualifications and abilities ends with Christ’s words to His own apostles, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16). Those who are called into the Lord's service are not chosen by God for His purpose -- they are not better people but those whom He has chosen. There is no justice or injustice in who the Lord calls. There is no fairness or lack of fairness in His will and purpose. The ministry is not won through having the right skill set or by the most impressive resume or a spectacular interview. We can all be agreed that there are indeed many men and women with pastoral capacities exceeding those whom the Lord has called. As I learned from my experience, even those who go through seminary are not guaranteed place as a right owed them. God does not reveal why he chooses some rather than others to serve the Christian people as priests and ministers. It is His Church and His will and purpose.
The greatest in the Kingdom are not the ministers but those to whom the ministry is directed -- the saints washed in baptism for whom Christ died and in whom Christ lives. The path to the ministry is not ours to define but to discern, not ours to change but one of the means through which we are changed, and not ours to dispense but whom the Lord calls. We are not given the right to innovate a new ministry or to invent new prerequisites of those who serve, or to apply earthly conceptions of justice and fairness as if this were something earned or owed. It is the Lord's grace and we discern His bidding and that is enough. The Church is merely the steward of Christ's office and seeks with prayer and wisdom to discern His will in those whom they call to fulfill that office.
I am certainly not whom I would have chosen. I know that others were better students, better thinkers, and more erudite and eloquent but the ministry is not a prize. It is a gift. It is for the candidate to discern the Lord's bidding for himself and for the Church to discern that calling for the whole and then to prepare, examine, call, and ordain. It is not a business decision and it is not a an equal opportunity employment program. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15:16). Call committees would do well to consider this when calling a pastor, pastors would do well to remember this also, and those who were not called should remember this, too.