“The joy and satisfaction that come from being faithful to Christ will always be richer than the mere ease that comes from drifting along the cultural currents.”
I think it would be fair to say that humans, as a whole, struggle deeply with the desire to live well and will pursue this desire with a great hunger. We want a life of purpose where scattered moments of meaning are interwoven together to create a beautiful mosaic that feels whole. Many of us will struggle with the existential question “what is my purpose in life?” and either attempt to spend our lives pursuing something genuinely valuable or aimlessly chasing after various distractions of the world.
That is not to say that we won’t at one time or another get derailed or distracted, but how do we more often than not sink into living well and purposefully? How do we ensure the things that derail us (whether obvious or subtle) do not shape us in the long run?
Here is where Jesus comes into this existential question. As Jon Tyson so eloquently states, “the call of Jesus is not just about morality or doctrine, religious performance or outreach. It’s about living well. It’s about learning to live in his way in the world, the way that produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and the fruit of the kingdom as a preview of the life to come” (Tyson, 2018). How do we even step into this way of living well with Jesus where our purpose is ultimately found? It starts at the cross.
In 1 Timothy 2, Paul sheds light on where true purpose and identity are found: “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time (1 Timothy 2:3-6).
God’s will and plan for us is that we would be sealed with the Holy Spirit that comes from faith in Jesus and reconciled back to Him as sons and daughters with hearts made new. Before we can unlock our individual purposes we must first start at the cross and recognize our deep need for the Lord. The cross, the blood of Jesus, the message and good news of the Gospel, creates a way to restore Eden and return to the intimacy of humanity walking in relationship with God, the creator. Thus, the highest form of the human experience is to know God relationally, and by the sacrifice of Jesus we can now boldly come into the presence of the Father and are called sons and daughters.
What a beautiful truth that our Creator deeply ingrained our purpose and identity in Him, and what is even more encouraging is that we “are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9). As believers in Christ, we have a “new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). And as we grow in faith and spiritual maturity, “The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18). Knowing that we are made in God’s image affects our understanding of our Creator and our relationship with Him. It also sets the stage for understanding how we navigate living out our faith and defend the sanctity of all human life thereby helping us live out our purpose as children of God.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Scripture is quite clear that the universal mission of followers of Jesus is to evangelize and win the lost to Christ. The comforting reality is that whether we are clinicians, educators, lawyers, homemakers, entrepreneurs, blue-collar workers etc., God will intimately walk alongside and guide us as we execute the mission. Drawing people with love to Jesus reminds us of the deep connection to the reality that God made a way to welcome us back. Those who were previously strangers are now called sons and daughters. “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclessiates 1:9), and God has shown this desire of reconciliation since the very beginning. The Israelites were called to remember their own “otherness” (as found in the Torah or first five books of the Bible). God wanted them to continuously remember His faithfulness to them as well as their time in Egypt as foreigners and their time in the wilderness as nomads to produce compassion for the “other” among them.
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33–34).
The God of yesterday, today and tomorrow created us in his image with an innate desire to be connected and safely belong. Jesus modeled what we and our culture crave; spaces of welcome regardless of social status, cultural and ethnic background, education level, social economic status, etc. Jesus came to create a new framework that aided in the creation of a space of love in a culture that is marred by fear and disconnection. So, to make disciples and show the love, care and consideration of God to others is intimately interwoven with inclusion and creating spaces of welcome. Just like the children of Israel were called by God to overcome fear and prejudice by loving the “foreigners as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33) we too as disciples are called to show care and hospitality to others because this is the way that our gracious and merciful God treats us. The Gospel of Luke specifically paints the beautiful picture of a Savior who both restores our broken friendship with God and creates the way to heal our broken relationships with one another.
New Testament scholar Joshua Jipp beautifully states “God’s hospitality is extended to his lost, broken, needy, and often stigmatized people. This divine hospitality comes to us in the person of Jesus, the divine host who extends God’s hospitality to sinners, outcasts, and strangers and thereby draws them—and us—into friendship with God.” He states further “God’s embrace of humanity into friendship with him is the ultimate form of welcoming the stranger. But divine hospitality does not end with our experience of God’s welcome; it also elicits human hospitality.” Our purpose as disciples of Jesus is to share the good news of the Gospel AND be active participants in the life-giving and healing ministry of Jesus. We do this by creating environments of welcome and extending hospitality to express the significance of Jesus’s identity. We welcome people in love rather than perpetuating the performance based mentality of striving and earning. We did not earn our way into a relationship with God and thereby we are called to help restore hearts and humanity by welcoming the stranger in love.
What would it look like if we sought to model Jesus’s hospitality while we share the Gospel to create these spaces of belonging? How would our aim, rooted in our purpose as disciples, drastically change and transform fear into welcome, connection, and healing? Let’s find out!
-Carlyn Wood – Learn more about working with Carlyn here!
Jipp, J. W., & Pohl, C. D. (2017). Saved by faith and hospitality. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Tyson, J. (2018). The burden is light: Liberating your life from the tyranny of performance and success. Multnomah.