Saturday, April 19, 2014

Greatness vs Faithfulness

One of the struggles I face on a regular basis is the desire to be great.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's bad to want to be great, but the question is, whose definition are you using?

Here's the problem - I believe we have adopted a definition of greatness in the modern, western church that still thinks about greatness from the perspective of the world around us.  It's a definition molded by the mindset that bigger is always better, more is better than less, fame is better than anonymity.  

(Insert AT&T commercial here.)

Case in point: when I meet people in the community who discover I am a pastor, the first question they typically ask me is, "Where is your church?" or "What kind of a church is that?" However, when I meet other pastors, the first question is always, "How big is your church?"

But that kind of thinking doesn't line up in any way with the definitions Jesus used for greatness (first shall be last and the last shall be first; whoever wants to become great must become the servant of all).  His language was always about downward movement, not upward.  In fact, today is a day (Holy Saturday) in which we celebrate the depths to which Christ was willing to descend in order to eventually be lifted up!

Maybe we need to throw the idea of greatness in the Kingdom completely out the window.  Maybe what we need to embrace instead, is faithfulness.

I recently read an account written by Thomas Pettepiece in Visions of a World Hungry, that brought this contrast between greatness and faithfulness into sharp focus.  Pettepiece was imprisoned with several thousand others as political prisoners and found himself in that place on an Easter Sunday. Being a Methodist minister, he decided he wanted to lead a communion service with the other Christian prisoners, but they didn't have any supplies at all, so he led them in "the communion of empty hands."  He went through all the motions with the people - giving them each a "piece" of bread and passing around "the cup" - all with nothing in their actual hands. He wrote about how powerful and moving the experience was for everyone, even causing one participant to say he finally discovered real faith through the experience.

Every worldly definition of greatness was completely missing from that encounter, but Pettepiece certainly was faithful to the call of Christ to remember Him.  And that's what I believe we must be willing to strive for as followers.  The simplicity of remaining faithful to the call of God is what matters in the framework of the Kingdom.  We are called to live faithfully, as spouses and parents, as friends and workers, as simple followers of Jesus, wherever and however He leads us.

Lord, on this day when we remember that your faithfulness took you all the way to the depths of hell, we will trust your Spirit and be faithful today with whatever we have, or don't have, in our hands!