Monday, 12 September 2011
I posted on Facebook that I am once again putting thought into the possibility of doing work with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine/Israel next year. I've been keen on the idea of spending time doing peace work in the middle east for years now. For a while I thought of moving to Iraq after graduation of college and then other good things happened. When I left Ohio I was in heavy debate over the issue as well. Then I was in a relationship that, of course, hindered that sort of activity.
Now I'm in seminary, and for the last year have been debating if I want to do this CPT delegation after graduation. I can go on a few of these form time to time -- they last about 2 weeks -- or I can make a 3 year commitment. I'm not sure that's in the cards for me though. A few delegations though? I can see that.
Anyway, when I posted on Facebook that I was once again thinking about this adventure a friend wrote to me saying "Well, if you're thinking about it-I don't support this idea. If God is leading you and clearing a path-I do. This isn't something you do because it sounds like a good idea."
I'm glad my friend loves me enough to share her opinion. I'm also glad she wants me to look to God for these types of decisions. I value that very much. It sparked a few thoughts in my mind about callings, path clearing, decision making, and so on. I asked her why it couldn't be both. Why could our path not be open, full of options, and requiring that we use what we have been given to make God-honoring decisions?
I believe that God is pleased with His children doing what they will so long as they are in His will. If we use our gifts, passions, and minds then our individual options become quite narrow. For instance, my heart beats for nonviolence and for the Church witnessing to the world through loving the oppressed and marginalized. This type of political, nonviolent, defending work is right up my alley when it comes to my passions and interests. I can not explain why I have an interest in this field but I do.
This passion also reaches to the poor, homeless, addicted, imprisoned, and those who abuse. I care for victims and oppressors and want to show them the way of God's peace and sacrifice. I can't say why, it just clicks for me. This is not true of many. The Church is like a body made of many parts, performing different functions, all doing the work of God. We all have specific giftings, talents, passions, experiences, and so on that lead us to pursuing certain ministries. We were, by our creation, purposed to be a specific person when living int he glory of God, filled with His Spirit and following His Way. In a way, we were predestined to live certain types of lives according to our uniqueness as individuals. However, this is operates within the greater body of Christ known as the Church. There is a great union between the Church and the Christian.
Anyway, if we choose to live in Christ, putting on the new self, living into who we were created to be, now possible through the Spirit, accessing our experiences, giftings, talents, passions, and mind then we will only pursue a few of many options. When we live in accordance with who we are meant to be then all these elements of ourselves will guide us to specific activities. When we say "yes" to Christ and to "here am I" to God then we say "no" to all that is not of Him and to what is not to be a part of ourselves. This limits our options in some ways, no longer permitting us to pursue certain activities, and opening up other options that honor God and use our talents, experiences, passions, gifts and mind. Discernment will lead us.
So we see that living into our intended identity and purpose will lead to us pursuing a limited amount of activities through our lives because we have found the good limitations in our life according to our God-given passions, gifts, mind, and so on. This brings up the question concerning calling. Do we need to hear/receive a specific calling to pursue certain ministries/activities? Do I require a specific calling/command to pursue Christian Peacemaking Teams delegations in order to actually pursue it or is it enough for me to see that it is good work and commit myself to it?
First of all, I believe there are two types of callings for Christians. There is general calling which is for all believers who are a part of Christ's Body on earth. These callings can be done in a myriad of ways both corporately and individually. Sometime these callings will be fulfilled through the specific callings of individuals and communities (but we'll stick to individuals for this article). As stated earlier, we are meant to be a certain individual who performs certain acts of love in the world according to what God has blessed us with. Sometimes God specifically calls us to people, places, or activities and we do well to faithfully say "Here am I Lord, send me!" and obey.
God does not always send specific calling though. Sometimes we are living our lives faithfully and allowed to honor God for a time without a specific calling. In these times we operate under the general calling and within the good limitations discussed earlier. These times lacking specific calling may be days or even years. Or perhaps the specific calling we have received is only concerning a type of activity or merely a place or people group and not all three. Perhaps we are not like Jonah, sent with a specific message to a specific people in a specific place. Perhaps we don't have a specific time frame but we know the concept or some single or slightly vague element of our calling and God has kept the rest hidden. Callings are diverse among persons and in their presence within the lives of individuals.
I believe God gives us minds and passions so that we may use them to serve Him. He doesn't need to specifically call us to an activity in order for it to be wise for us to engage in that activity or for Him to be honored by our engaging in that activity. We can do all activities for His glory even if there is no direct and clear personal calling from Him to perform that specific activity (so long as it isn't keeping us from whatever specific callings may exist for us). It is good to do good things because we decided, according to our God-given passions and minds, to do them for the glory of God.
I would say this [joining a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Palestine/Israel] is an activity that demands prayer (since there is such a great amount of time between now and then) in case God has reason to say "no" to the endeavor. All worthwhile endeavors that consist of our serving of others and giving up of self deserve prayer. If it involves commitment it deserves prayer. I believe that we, like Paul, are wise to go and do until we are told by God to go elsewhere and do otherwise. If discernment tells us that the activity is good then we should not be discouraged to engage it. If we are in the will of our Father and seeking to glorify Him, having the support of the Church, then we should continue pressing forward, serving however our gifts, passions, minds, and experiences lead us under the guidance of the Spirit.
Do you think that God gives only specific callings or do you think that He allows us to work within His will without a specific calling?