Perspective

I struggle for proper perspective.  What is the best use of the limited time, resources, and talents which God has entrusted to me?  How do I balance personal enjoyments with the larger picture of what really matters in life and eternity?

Preach the Gospel.  Die.  Be forgotten.

This quote by 17th century Christian Nicolaus Zinzendorf really caught my eye when I first encountered it through Facebook a week or so ago.  It summarizes what my job as a Christian and a pastor is.  But it flies in the face of the culture that affects me daily, a culture of narcissism, where 15 minutes of fame is no longer adequate and insatiable social media technology holds the promise of enduring fame/notoriety.  Along with the accolades and likes and followers and money that we associate with such popularity.

None of this lasts.  We all know it.  Or perhaps what we hope is the fame lasts even after we’re gone.  That we’ll still be the talk of the town, a relevant meme, an inspiring memory even after our death.  Fame becomes a form of immortality.  Unable to conquer death on our own, we seek to at cheat it the only way we can – by hoping our memory lives on after us.

Zinzendorf spoke to missionaries – men and women committing their entire selves to the perpetual sharing of the Gospel.  It wasn’t glorious work.  It never has been and never will be, although we certainly have found ways to make segments of American Christianity more resemble a popularity contest or an American Idol show or a TED presentation.  But what matters isn’t temporary glory.  The stakes are far higher than that, and God’s people need to bear this in mind daily.

I’m not called to pursue fame.  I wasn’t ordained in order to boast about the number of friends I have on Facebook or how many people follow this blog.  I sought – and was granted – the title of minister of religion so that people’s lives might be changed.  And getting a late official start in this vocation, I don’t have the luxury of time to indulge in things that might make me feel better about myself.  Pursuing a doctoral degree.  Writing a book.  Perfecting my 8-ball game.

I hope that it’s not laziness, though.  This gut-feeling that what matters aren’t the letters after or before my name.  The continual struggle of feeling inadequate.  I could spend more time and money to try and work through those issues, but in the meantime I lose precious space and time to actually share the Gospel with people who need to hear it.  Perhaps this is the thorn in my flesh (or at least one of them!) as St. Paul understood (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), whereby our sinful ambitions and the attitudes of the world are set on their head so that we end up only boasting in Christ.

And in doing so, we receive that which we sought on so many other terms and through so many other means and institutions.  We receive eternal life, and the promise that we will never be forgotten.  That we will be known throughout all eternity through the grace and forgiveness of God in which we placed our faith and trust.

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