In the book, Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell questions the Christian faith as many of us know it today. The other day I was reading it and came across this section that really caught my attention.
“I am learning that the church is at its best when it gives itself away. And this is because blessing is always instrumental. Let me explain. In Genesis 12, God tells a man named Abram that he’s going to bless him, and through him, he is going to bless the whole world. This is the birth of the Jewish people, whom God wants to use to reach everybody. This blessing is instrumental in nature. God wants to use Abraham, to flow through him, to have him be the conduit through whom God can bless everybody else. Abraham is just a vessel. God doesn’t choose people just so they’ll feel good about themselves or secure in their standing with God or whatever else. God chooses people to be used to bless other people. Elected, predestined, chosen – whatever words people use for this reality, the point is never the person elected or chosen or predestined. The point is that the person serving others, making their lives better.
The second significant idea in Genesis 12 is that Abraham’s calling is universal. It is for everybody. All kinds of people all over the place are going to be blessed by God through Abraham. God has no boundaries. God blesses everybody. People who don’t believe in God. People who are opposed to God. People do violent, evil things. God’s intentions are to bless everybody. Jesus continues this idea in many of his teachings. In the book of Luke he says, “I am among you as ones who serve. For Jesus, everything is upside down. The best and greatest and most important are the ones who humble themselves, set their needs and desires aside, and selflessly serve others.
So what is a group of people living this way called? That’s the church. The church doesn’t exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it’s about all the people God wants to bless through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses its heart. This is especially true today in the world we live in where so many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever going to change. This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavior doesn’t help. It makes it worse. It isn’t the kind of voice Jesus wants his followers to have in the world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”
Rob says so much in just a few words but the particular reason this spoke to me is because of the season. The time in which so many of us are counting down to the day that we get to have Thanksgiving dinner with our families and soon after are going back home for Christmas, many are not as fortunate. As a church, we do not exist to just sustain ourselves. We are called to be the vessel by which God blesses all people and to show them what the love and grace of God is all about. We are called to serve others. So as you approach this holiday season please keep this in mind. I know it is a difficult thing to do when your life seems difficult but I hope you never miss the opportunity to be the light in someone’s life.