Toward An Extraordinary Normal

Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th century Danish Christian, wrote a parable entitled Tame Geese: A Revivalistic Meditation. It is the story of a community of talking geese who would gather together on Sundays for their religious services. At the gathering, the geese would hear a message telling them what an amazing work the Creator wanted to do through them. Not only did the Creator give them a great goal, but he provided them with wings to fly and accomplish the goal. The geese were made to fly. The preacher proclaimed the goose-changing message Sunday after Sunday. Yet after hearing the message, the geese would all get out of their seats and waddle home. Waddle throughout the week. They would live their lives waddling despite having been made to fly. Kierkegaard concluded the story with the phrase, “Man also has wings.” Yet we continue to waddle.

What if, instead of waddling, we were determined to be the people that God wanted us to be?

In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul gives some practical advice on how to do just that.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 ESV).

That's a lot of stuff to do. Now, I can't put these things to work in your life. You must do it. You must be determined to respect your church leaders. You must be determined to be at peace with others. You must be determined to encourage the idle, help the weak, and be patient with everyone. You must be determined to never repay evil with evil but to always do good. You must be determined to rejoice. You must be determined to pray without ceasing and never quench the spirit. You must be determined to be thankful in all situation. To avoid evil.

You must be determined, but God, who is faithful will surely match your determination and do His work in you.

Some argue that people who share my viewpoint emphasize our part in this process too much. How much of a role do we really play in being holy and how much of our holiness is given to us by God? I don't know the answer, nor do I think wasting too much time thinking about that answer is useful. What I do know is that we play a part. Paul spent a whole section saying all the things that we must do. And then He followed it up with, "God will do it."

God doesn't  need me to encourage Him to do what He should be doing. When I write an article, I don't need to convince God that he needs to make you holy. I need to convince you to be determined to pursue the life God is calling you to no matter what the cost because God is already doing that work in you. You just have to take hold of it and be determined and willing. The holiness God wants you to live in is right here ready for you to grasp.

Paul directs us in what we need to be determined in. We need to be people determined to be free from sin and determined to do the work of the Lord. "That's impossible," you say. I can't be free from sin. I can't do the superprojects that God wants done. And I can hear the whisper of God in response, "All you have to do is want it." Or as Paul wrote, "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased."

In Jesus, we see that the extraordinary can become ordinary. We just have to know the life He wants us to live is possible. All we have to do is look around to see extraordinary people living in ways that are completely ordinary to them. Likewise, we need to be determined to bring the life of Jesus forward into our normal, everyday lives. To be free from sin as much as possible. To be His hands and feet to those around us. To change our world.