What Does It Mean To Be Called?
The early Christian church is a renegade cult that was considered heretical by the established religion of Israel. We have to remember that all of Jesus’ followers were Jews who decided to believe one of the prophets who came claiming to be the Messiah. History has shown that when religion has anticipation of the special manifestation of God, self-proclaiming prophets appear in droves.
One of the reasons Jesus was not readily accepted by the people of Israel, especially the religious leaders, was because there were many other prophets during that era. We see an example of this in the book of Acts we are looking at this Sunday. A man named Bar-Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and, according to John, was leading many astray.
As the new religion grew in followers, they had to come up with a way to ensure that the message that was being passed along was accurate to fight against these self-proclaiming prophets who were making up new messages. The church then came up with dedicated messengers who the disciples officially sanctioned as missionaries. The process of deciding who would be accepted as missionaries was the process of “called and sent”.
The interested candidates expressed their desire to be “called” by God, and the faith community took the responsibility of discerning the individual’s readiness and collectively “sent” the person with the message. In this week’s text (Acts 13), Paul and Barnabas are sent by the church as its first official representatives to ensure that the message that is being spread is accurate. Later we find that there are many who believe they are “called” by God but are not accepted by the church. That is why we find in Matthew that Jesus says many are called, but few are chosen.
While this may be a good policy for churches to use when choosing missionaries, it is often misapplied when it comes to how we live out our faith as people. Too often, the responsibility of teaching the Bible or preaching the Word of God, we often act as if that task requires a “call.”
The post-modern theology of “sainthood of all believers” emphasizes the giftedness of everyone and the importance of sharing leadership among all members. We no longer require a “call” that can be verified by the church to “send” someone to do ministry, but we now emphasize the presence of the love of God in their lives.
We believe everyone is called to serve, and everyone is sent to show the love of Jesus. We believe everyone is called, and God sends everyone as God’s representative in their world. We live in a world where hope is in short supply and love is hard to find. The world is looking for people of grace who live out the values Jesus has taught. Let us be the called people of God sent by the spirit to show God’s love to everyone.