My parents were celebrated Sunday by the church they’ve pastored for the last six years. They’re retiring not only from that pastorate but from more than 43 years of ministry all over the place. It was a special day and as I watched and listened to what people shared and thought about how God has used them throughout all that time I was thankful, amazed and proud. It was no rose-lined path they walked even though there definitely were beautiful places here and there. They have faced their share of trouble, as we all do. My dad sank into a deep depression and burnout when I was about 21. He took some time away and returned ready to share some of the issues he was wrestling with, including expectations others had for his life. His parents, my grandparents, were missionaries and somehow while growing up my dad perceived there is a hierarchy of servants when it comes to ministry for Jesus. If you’re committed to Christ you’ll serve in a church, if you’re extra committed you’ll be a pastor, and if you’re über committed you’ll be a missionary. Although I know my dad was called to preach and pastor, he confessed that he had felt pressure to prove his devotion to Jesus by working as a pastor and it had begun building up as resentment over the years. There were other issues, for sure, but this one stood out to me.
Why is it that we, humans, seem to always place people in rank order, in hierarchies? You’re a little better than that person, and I’m the best….or…this job is more important than that one or this type of personality is best. I really don’t think there is any hierarchy when it comes to following Jesus. Each type of person, whatever gift they bring and talent they offer, is worth the same to God. I believe the heart is the key. If you have a willing heart and are ready to follow Jesus and do whatever it takes to serve Him, then I don’t think it matters what it is He has you do.
When I think about Mary and Joseph, even though the job they were given was definitely the most important job ever, they were still just fellow servants: regular people willing to do what God asked them to do and doing it the best they knew how. I know many honor Mary above all others for being chosen as the mother of Jesus. Does God honor some over others for what they do? Does he really think missionaries are better or more devoted servants than someone who cleans houses for a living but loves people for Him every day? Or does He just love us all and honor all of us with His grace and a place in His family because of what Jesus did? We find our worth in that place, in the knowledge that we’ve been adopted and are children of God, not in what we do for Him. Like any loving parent, God loves all his children unconditionally and equally.
If you’ve compared yourself to others and come up lacking or feeling less important, be encouraged. Don’t be weighed down by expectations from others or yourself. Stand before your heavenly Father, who loves you so much he would give his Son’s life, with an open and ready heart. Then listen as God says to you, “You are worth the sacrifice I made. You have great value to me.”
O God of Israel, there is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below, who unswervingly keeps covenant with his servants and unfailingly loves them while they sincerely live in obedience to your way. II Chronicles 6:12 The Msg
So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves. Psalm 107:4 The Msg