“It’s not about you.”
It was just an exasperated retort by my then-boyfriend, but it turned out to be one of the more liberating and clarifying statements of my life.
It’s interesting how Paul retells his story in today’s scripture. We often think about his Damascus road experience as a religious conversion—but he didn’t change religions. The big change? Suddenly, in light of Jesus’ call, Paul’s life was not about him—or even his religion or its institutions. It was all about God’s glory and following the Way of Jesus by serving others. Paul got a transformed heart and a calling to serve.
I’ve worked around seminary admissions for more than a decade. If there’s one place where you consistently hear call stories, it’s a seminary admissions office. Day in and day out, people call, email, or walk into the office with a story on their tongues and a fire in their hearts. Sometimes they’ve sensed a call for years but have just recently gained the courage or aligned life circumstances to follow it; sometimes the call is brand new, and they still struggle to articulate it. While every person’s story is different, a few things are almost universally true: God’s call is not about them. It’s not even about maintaining the church or Christianity. It’s about following Jesus and serving his people. Following God’s call requires sacrifice.
Paul gave up a powerful religious career to become an itinerant preacher who would be beaten and imprisoned. Yet in his retelling, Paul overflows with joy in his calling. Yes, God’s call brings struggle, but it also brings freedom, meaning, and joy.
Think of moments when you realized that life isn’t all about you. How is God’s grace propelling you to serve God and others? How can you share the freedom, mercy, and love you’ve found in Jesus Christ?
Jeremiah’s warning of coming judgment continues. The children of Israel have become foolish, have ignored God, and have become good mainly at doing evil. God is going to respond to this situation. The psalmist describes the state of all who are foolish: They deny God and follow their own corrupt desires, including oppressing the poor. The author of First Timothy, traditionally Paul, says that this was also his former way of life. He has been foolish and ignorant, a persecutor of the followers of Christ. In fact, he had been the worst of all sinners; yet Christ has shown him mercy, not judgment. Jesus tells two parables to reveal God’s heart. Rather than neglecting the ignorant, the foolish, and the lost, God searches to find each one of us.
Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. How do your actions show others that you know God?
Read Psalm 14. When have you, like the psalmist, felt that no one knows God? How did you have faith that God would restore God’s people?
Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Recall a time when you felt unworthy of Christ’s full acceptance. How has that experience made you more grateful for Christ’s mercy?
Read Luke 15:1-10. In a world full of death and violence, how do you rejoice when God finds one lost person?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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