Calling–Where Does the Christianese End?

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You all have heard it a thousand times: “I really felt called here,” or “Where is God calling you right now?” or maybe the most painful and cringe worthy: “I think God is calling me to break up with you.”

“Calling” is an oft-thrown around word that is loaded with meaning but infrequently defined.  It can be a blanket term thrown out to imply that something besides one’s own interests are at play.  Each time I hear someone use the word “calling,” the cynic in me is dying to know what they are hiding…Are they not confident enough to make a decision?  Do they think that God despises our desires and passions?  Did they really hear God tell them to break up?  Why dress up their decision in God-talk?

While I may be sick of this Christianese code-word, I don’t think that it should be thrown out.  What needs to happen, rather, is to come to a better understanding of calling.

When I read the Bible I see “calling” used mainly in two ways.  Paul says that he was “…called to be an apostle…” and that the Gentiles are “…called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1).  Within this short section we have Paul saying that he was called vocationally and that the Gentiles were called to belong to Christ.  There is the specific calling and the general calling.  This rings true with me.  We are all called to love God, love our neighbor, live generously, love those on the margins, and care for what God has given and created. We are told to “be worthy of the calling you have received.”  At it’s most basic level, it’s an invitation for all of us to live in relationship with Jesus.  There is also a personal calling.  For Paul, it was to be an apostle.  We are told to make our “calling and election sure,”   God made this perfectly clear when he blinded Paul on the road to Damascus and spoke this calling quite starkly.  I don’t think Paul had to think too much about that call: the blinding light and voice of Jesus were enough.

So each one of us must live in the freeing calling (or invitation, if you prefer) of relationship with Jesus.  We don’t need to continually be worrying about the specifics (Am I called to eat eggs or toast for breakfast?) but focus on pressing into who Jesus calls us to be: loving, compassionate, just, humble, and merciful (just to name a few).  I think that as we live into this calling, God will make it clear when we are called to something more specific; and in the meantime, let’s be cautious of our Christianese so that we don’t strip powerful words of their meaning.

Thoughts?  How have you experienced a calling in your life?

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4 Comments. Leave new

Eric Parker
July 13, 2011 9:47 pm

Rings true to me! Often times I just avoid the word calling altogether because of the confusion that often comes with its usage. Like you said, it is used in scripture, so it is by no means a word that needs to be phased out of use, but rather used thoughtfully and perhaps sparingly. Thanks for the awesome blog post!

The devil is in the details (so to speak)! Even though many could easily write this off as a matter of semantics, often when we dig into the etymology we can find the truest meaning, and that is worth our time.

Calling…often a cop-out. But, I think that when the word “call” or any form of it is thrown around, we have a responsibility to trust that God could and would call someone else to something that He would never call us to. And that is okay! It’s easy to distrust God’s voice in the lives of others, yet when WE are “called,” it’s genuine every time. Hmm…Benefit of the doubt is something that I think needs to be adopted more in regards to the voice of God. Sometimes we’ll think that we are “called” to something in particular and in reality God wants to use our walking in faith to make us into stronger, more beautiful pursuers of Him. That is always the hard part that requires complete trust. It requires us to ask the question:”What is it that You want to do in me that you couldn’t do any other way?” Sometimes we don’t understand why we were “called” to something that fell through or left us hurt and wounded, but we have to trust that God has a bigger plan and in every step He brings us closer to the children that we were created to be no matter how painful the journey. Fire burns…it’s painful…but it’s refining, that’s for sure. At Jenn Stewart’s wedding I sang a song that has the line, “If You call us to the fire You will not withdraw Your hand. We will gaze into the flames and look for You.” Thank the Lord for that!!

Good word on giving others the benefit of the doubt. Why is it that judgment comes so quickly and naturally? One could, however, take this too far and never question the call of a friend that seems to be a fairly left of center. It takes much humility and caution to do this. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

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