By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. Hosea put it well: ‘I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, ‘You’re nobody!’ they’re calling you ‘God’s living children.’ … How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives.”—Romans 9:22-25; 30 (MSG)
Following God’s call is not always easy.
Even Jesus, who knew our struggles and knew our doubts, tried to prepare his disciples for Jerusalem. Truly bearing our cross pales in comparison to what Jesus endured, but God’s call for each and every one of us is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for those easily intimidated, because in the long run, following God’s call is not always easy. Along this journey of faith, there will be challenges. There will be evil. We will encounter persecution, suffering and enemies along the way.
But take heart, friends, for we are never alone as people of faith. As we continue to seek a more excellent way together across South Carolina, may we trust, believe and know that God is with us.
It has often been said that it’s a strange world we are living in right now. Old rules are being rewritten. Things are changing that we never thought would change. Events are happening that we never thought we would see. Things we took for granted now seem to be happening all the time.
Our current challenge is recognizing that we are a connectional denomination in an ever more individualistic society. We have to relate the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who feel they no longer need Jesus. It is our task to let them know that Jesus is still real in their lives today and forever.
No matter how much we think we’ve figured out about Scripture, about people and about the world, our knowledge is still imperfect. Each of us is still subject to imperfections, to self-impulses. In his writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul realized that under threat, people wither. With encouragement, people grow.
May we, too, take to heart this important realization. Under threat, people wither. With encouragement, people grow.
Throughout the Bible, the good news of Jesus Christ, the message of hope, is always set amid a backdrop of world events. Even today, with all that is going on around us—ongoing pandemic, social unrest and political divisiveness—we must keep our eyes focused on what is important. We must keep our hearts true. We must maintain a clear understanding of what God is truly calling us to do. This is no easy task.
The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to a higher way of life. A way of spiritual worship. Let us remember not to become so heavenly bound that we are no earthly good. The goal of sanctification is to prepare ourselves for spiritual living. We are to live in the world in such a way so that our witness to the life-changing love and grace of Jesus Christ is evident to all whom we meet.
God is calling us to be focused on God’s purpose. God is calling us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Even with so much else going on in our lives, our communities and even our churches, don’t forget what God has called us to.
The lives we live should be the very evidence of transformation. That means a change. God is changing our hearts, our minds, our souls. We are not the same anymore. People should be able to look at us and see a difference. If we aren’t becoming better, what are we becoming?
Don’t let what is wrong with us keep us from worshipping what is right with God.
A question that I have asked others and asked myself is this: “When was it the last time that you led someone into relationship with Jesus Christ?” When was the last time that you made a witness with your life and your words and led someone into a relationship with Jesus Christ?
If we are not doing that, then we are not the church. That is God’s purpose. That is what we are called to do.
If we are the church, if we are what God is calling us to be, then maybe, just maybe, that is the first step of seeking a more excellent way; trusting, believing, knowing that God is with us.