I come from a church tradition that places a high value on sanctification, speaking in tongues, and soul-winning. And to be quite honest, I am fine with that. Obviously there are family squabbles in any household, this is actually a healthy thing as it keeps us all sharp and focused, and does indeed help us with our sanctification. What we have, in the Pentecostal movement, referred to as “soul-winning” is a topic that has changed over the years – some would say it’s been adapted to fit our current culture, others would say it’s been ignored, and still others would hear the term and say, “Huh? What are we talking about? Is there a contest?”
What occurred to me in some prayerful thought today was the treacherous nature of the balancing act between the ordered life that comes from trusting in God’s total sovereignty over the world and what can easily become the frenetic urgency of wanting everyone you meet to know Christ and, subsequently, eternal joy. These two things can very easily grow at odds with each other in practice, even though they are complementary in a healthy theological framework.
It reminded me of a story that I’d read several years ago, the source of which I have long forgotten. The account is told of an early church monk who was tending to the monastery garden when a younger brother walked upon him. Troubled by the seeming waste of talent and dedication that such an experienced and mature follower of Christ offered the world the younger man asked the elder, “what would you do if you were to find out that Jesus was to return this afternoon?” The elder monk, with little deliberation, said, “I’d finish weeding this garden.”
The point of this story is implied but clear. There is a manner of living as a Christian that dwells in the confidence of knowing that you are playing your part well, and that is what matters. There is an assurance in the old monk’s words that proclaims God’s ability to sort out the world’s problems by using and allocating His people (resources) as He sees fit. For that monk, on that day, God had determined for him to weed the garden. While this may seem like a trivial task in the face of hundreds of thousands of people in danger of missing the opportunity to know eternal joy in the presence of God, it is exactly what needed to be done. What would a world full of weeds tell those who don’t know Jesus? Among other things it would tell them that this is a hopeless place that is useless, worthless, and in such disrepair that any “good news” about the Creator of such a ball of filth couldn’t be worth knowing.
If there were 500 Billy Graham’s then problems would most definitely ensue (not least of which would be a shortage of musicians who can play “Just As I Am” for an hour and a half without growing bored, tired, or cynical). Playing our part, our God-ordained, sometimes mundane, sometimes dangerous part in the kingdom of heaven is not a lack of urgency, but the embrace of it. For every modern evangelist winning thousands to the kingdom, there is a grandmother singing while she makes breakfast everyday, softening the heart of her grandkids who will be at that preacher’s meeting someday. For every missionary, or mission team, there is a pilot who – at times unknowingly – flies them to their destination, who spent hundreds of hours in classrooms, reading manuals, doing dozens of touch-and-go’s at the airport, trying to get her license so she could have a career to support her family and church. All of this is merely playing our role.
The opportunities that God puts in front of us, as we live in a pattern of love and discipleship, are His will for our lives. Sometimes He’s calling us to be dangerous, sometimes He’s calling us to pull weeds. In both of those scenarios we must be able to see the hand of the Creator cutting our unique pathway in this life.
There are far too many weeds still in this world. We, as the people of the kingdom, must look to make this place as beautiful as we can as a witness to our Lord’s love. Jesus said it this way in His prayer to the Father, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”