“Set apart before birth”?

July 22, 2010

In last Sunday’s sermon, I made the seemingly bold assertion that we Christians, like Paul, have been set apart before birth to take part in God’s saving mission in this world.

How do you feel about that? Maybe you think, “My life isn’t anything special. I mean, sure, Paul’s was special. He changed the world! Me, who am I? What am I doing? I would have to really flatter myself to think that God really cared about me in this way.”

Hmm… Maybe you buy into this pervasive, depressing, destructive idea that our lives are nothing more than a grain of sand on a nearly endless beach—and how could God—any god—care so much about us? Isn’t it wishful thinking? Aren’t we deluding ourselves? I’ve seen best-selling author and atheist Christopher Hitchens make that argument in a live debate I witnessed—that we Christians are really full of ourselves, really conceited, to think that our lives matter in that way.

This idea even affects those of us who aren’t atheists or skeptics. It can disguise itself as a false kind of piety: “God, don’t worry yourself over my humble life and my petty concerns—not while there’s an oil spill going on in the Gulf; not while there’s war, famine, earthquake, hurricanes, and global warming. Take care of those things first. It’s selfish of me to bother you with my stuff.”

We feel this way, I believe, because we reduce God down to nothing more than a much bigger, much stronger, and much smarter version of ourselves; there’s only so much of God to go around; and we don’t want God to spread himself so thinly. If God spends a lot of time giving attention to my needs and my concerns, after all, God would have less time to give to other people.”

Sorry if you feel that way, but that is not the God of Christianity. It’s not hard for God to care about us and love us so much—as if God were one thing among other things in the universe, competing with them for our attention and we for God’s.  God is instead the Source of everything—everything we have and everything we are! The God we Christians believe in is the God who at this very moment is giving us our heartbeat; giving us the breath in our lungs; enabling us to have life at this moment.

If God weren’t already intimately involved with us right now, we wouldn’t be alive! The point is, it should not be a stretch to believe that from all eternity God had a plan and purpose for our lives—because that’s who God is. To believe otherwise is to make God less than God.

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