Last month I visited Athens and had the great pleasure of leading a devotional thought for our small group on Mars Hill. The same place where Paul famously approached the Athenians and stated that he knew the unknown god.
In that visit I learned that while public speaking was encouraged, they had some very strict expectations and rules. You couldn't just pick a street corner and begin to loudly speak to the passersby.
The philosophers who governed from Mars Hill believed in the ekklesia of the people or the body of the people. Though it was under Roman rule, the tradition was rooted in Greek philosophical practices. While everyone may have had the right, as a member of the body, to speak they had to do so within the established guidelines. The right to speak was rooted in their understanding of logos or the Greek word we translate as “word”. However, in Greek tradition logos is more than simply the word. It has a deep root that implies divine word, or reason. It means well thought out, inspired, wise and well structured. It wasn't permission to babble and scream at the general public. It was a call to precision.
Therefore, when they were invited to speak to the elders or philosophers at Mars Hill, they were expected to have a well thought out and conclusive reasonable statement or premise. They were also granted 6 minutes to state their case.
Therefore, while anyone would be granted permission to speak, in order to gain stature within the community they would have had to be exceptionally articulate and wise in their short six minutes.
This leads me to recognizing how different things are in today’s world, where we are all being granted indefinite access to the those in our world through media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and for the very creative, YouTube. For the most part, its innocent fun. Yet there are those people who use these medias do so to earn celebrity status amongst their friends and family. We don't even have to say anything “wise” or “relevant” but instead share pictures of kittens and kids and we get all the attention we desire. Its amazing how a few "likes" will feed your ego and keep you hooked on the screen.
Now don't misunderstand me. I enjoy the use of social media to stay in touch with friends and family. I love sharing pics of my grandchildren and pics of trips and special times. It's a way of sharing with those friends and family who are not physically close.
However, as noted earlier, there is a class of people out there who are seeking to establish some level of celebrity status. They want to be present in other people’s lives. They want you to celebrate their life and in many cases they derive personal value based on how many likes or shares and contacts they have in this virtual fellowship.
So herein is where I wish to make my pastoral point. Jesus instructs us very deliberately that our place is to be in servitude as opposed to audacious presence. In Luke 22:25-27 Jesus clearly instructs his disciples to adopt a different form of leadership and presence. They are not to be like the Gentile rulers who lord their authority over others. Instead, he juxtaposes his desire to serve and be of service to the desire of Gentile leaders desiring to be lords over all.
Jesus doesn't call us to be celebrities, to be famous, rich, and powerful. He calls us to care about one another and be humble enough to desire to serve others. Sometimes, he may call a celebrity, a rich person, or a powerful person for the work of the Kingdom but it doesn't mean that the opposite is true, being in Jesus is a path to such richness or celebrity status.
I bring this up because we have to be careful and intentional with the desires of our hearts as we come to proclaim Jesus as Lord of our lives. Our desire, per the way I understand Jesus’ teaching, is for us to seek God with all of our being (soul, mind, strength) and then allow God’s Spirit in us to reach others. There is nothing about this process that calls us to celebrate ourselves. Nothing about this relationship with God is about improving our circumstances in the physical world. If it were so, the great temptation would be to seek God so we can get the things we covet. God is not about this.
Jesus instructs us to seek God. In seeking God, we surrender our will, our desires and our life to God. In doing so, we get closer to God and begin to reflect the character and nature of God in baby steps. In doing this, we attract others and we share this wonderful hope. It’s all about being transformed from the inside out and thus being transformed with how we live our lives and see others.
This doesn't mean that being faithful to God deprives us of the desire to be good at our profession or our skills. On the contrary, our ethic pushes us to do all things for God. When we serve in our profession we are to do it with the intent of serving God not our bosses. The aim is to show that a person of faith can be talented, professional and successful while at the same time our value, our worth and our identity is focused on serving as Christ. Its not an easy task, but it is possible.
In the end, it's not about getting God on your side so you can sell your agenda, promote your policies, impress your people, or about seeking to be famous or successful. It's about desiring to know God and watching what unfolds per God’s plan. We have to learn to be honest with ourselves and seek God because we wish to know God, not use God.
This then becomes a journey of faith.