A life worthy of the high calling
January 3, 2022
Most professions have ethical rules or standards of professional conduct. Those who wish to be part must agree to abide by them as part of the qualification process. The standards are not meant to infringe on members’ personal freedoms but to safeguard the value of the profession. After all, some conduct will stain the profession, affect how the public perceives it, and compromise its effectiveness.
Christianity is, in some ways, like that. The writers of the books of the New Testament reminded early Christians that their new spiritual identity came with significant responsibilities and a new code of ethics. As Christians, the new converts now had a call on their lives. They no longer belonged to nor lived for themselves; they were God’s and were to live for Him. By believing in Christ, they had become a “holy people,” that is, separated for God’s use (1 Peter 2:9). They were carrying a precious treasure (2 Cor 4:7), God’s very presence, and tasked with making Him known to others. Christians thus had to live a life worthy of that high calling (Eph 4:1-3), and that life involved abstaining from behaviors they might have readily engaged in before they were Christians.
In practice, this teaching of disciplined and intentional Christian living tends to get lost in the larger teaching about God’s grace. Although Christians have indeed been “saved by grace,” they must still watch the way they live (Eph 5:15-20) as they “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12-13).
One thing is certain: the Christian life cannot be lived on auto-pilot. It requires reliance on God, engaging the will, disciplining oneself, and prioritizing the pursuit of Christ. One must say a thousand “nos” to self and many distractions in order to stay on course. This should not be read as advocating some sort of legalistic adherence to moral rules or the type of austerity that subsumes all enjoyment (God is neither anti-fun nor a kill-joy!), but it is meant to remind Christians that they are supposed to be different from the world, and they are to welcome and bear the burdens of that difference with joy.
Paul was not oblivious to the fact that Christian standards of conduct were extremely high. In fact, he recognized that given human weakness, no one could possibly, in their own strength, live them (Rom. 7:19-8:1). Not one. Yet, strengthened by Christ, he never stopped pressing toward that high mark (Phil 3:13-14).
To begin to live a life worthy of the high calling, we can start this year by recommitting our lives to God. We recommit to remembering that we belong to Him, not ourselves; we live for his purposes, not our own.
May God grant us all the grace to embrace the name “Christian” wholeheartedly; to enjoy its privileges and bear its burdens with the same grace, commitment and character Christ showed as he fulfilled his High Calling.