Spring commencement exercises have come and gone. Speakers throughout the country encouraged the new grads to be extraordinary, to rise to the top, to follow their passions, to make a difference in the world.
The church often repeats that message, exhorting its youth not be settle for the ordinary, to rise above the common folk in the pews, to do extraordinary feats for Christ, to be radical. That sounds good, but is it biblical?
I have talked with college students who have been counseled by their para-church college ministry leader to put aside marriage for a few years and devote their time to some sort of college ministry. These students love the Lord and want to serve him. They do not want simply to join a church and settle into a comfortable life of ease. I love their enthusiasm and fervor.
Such a view, however, problematic. It equates following Christ, really following Christ with doing the spectacular. My counsel to young Christians is that God is glorified through the natural course of living. With the exception of a believer who God has called to a life of singleness and celibacy, we are to marry and have children and establish godly homes. The husband is to provide for his family, so getting a job which will do that is a good thing. I don’t find any scriptural injunction to delay that for a temporary ministry or mission. The closest one may get is Paul’s suggestion about the present distress in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 7, but that was a circumstance peculiar to whatever was going on in Corinth.
On more than one occasion I have talked with young men involved in a courting relationship who were counseled by their college ministers to delay marriage in order to undertake a particular college ministry for a few years. It sounds noble, and it sounds like the type of sacrifice to which the Bible calls believers. The trouble, though, is that “it sounds,” but it isn’t. In reality, it seems to contradict the Scriptures and would lead such young men into unnecessary temptation (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-2).
Well-intentioned Christians have a knack for making complicated what the Bible makes relatively clear. God has not called us to pursue the heroic. He has called us to the ordinary. The purpose of the ordinary, however, is not a matter of pursuing creature comfort. It is a matter of pursuing God and glorifying him through the means that God has established. God has instituted marriage (Genesis 2:21-25; Matthew 19:4-6). God commands us to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). Couples unable to have children often adopt. The Scriptures enjoin us to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). We are to glorify God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). We find discipleship and nurture in the local church (Hebrews 10:24-25).
I cannot help but wonder whether this call to do the extraordinary and radical is little more than an appeal to our individual egos. We don’t want to be “ordinary.” We want others to know how valuable we are to the cause of Christ. And that’s a problem. The focus becomes “us.”
There are individuals that God sovereignly places in situations in which they do what are perceived to be notable achievements. Most believers, however, are called to the “ordinary,” to marriage and family, to employment, to learning and ministering through their local church, and to being a godly influence upon their neighbors and their fellow employees. May we not see such a life as a “lesser” form of Christian living. The Bible doesn’t.