Near or Far? Toward or Away?

A while back Joel Hunter (my pastor at Northland) suggested that distance is not as significant as direction. I’m not sure how, exactly, but I think this idea merges with what I’m trying to straighten out in my head about “ministry” as a subset of life v. ministry as life.  We’ll see…

When evaluating a person’s spirituality within the context of the banner of Christianity, I suspect many of us measure in terms of distance. I’ve heard people talking about being close to God or being far from God, for instance.

In this economy or hierarchy, I score pretty well most of the time. I score “close” points for the number of years I’ve been a Christian, the number of years I’ve been a member of a church, and the consistency at which I have participated in weekend and week-day activities at said church. I also score points for formal and informal biblical education, including the fact that I taught New Testament for a number a years in a Christian school. Speaking of…I score a boat load of points for vocational choices — teacher at a Christian school (11 years), staff of a church (4 years) and missionary (8.5 years and counting). I own more than a dozen Bibles and shelves full of literature that would be considered Christian — and then there is the music collection (boy, could I impress you with the depth and breadth of my Christian music menu!). I could go on, but I’m beginning to get a bit nauseous.

But what if we considered the direction of focus and movement as more important than placement?

You see, all those things I mentioned before may or may not indicate the condition of my heart. In fact, I know that I can be seated pretty close to the front row literally but be internally not even in the building. I can be close but stagnant and uninterested. Someone else who is far, far from God in terms previously described but who is seeking hard after Him — earnest, honest, passionate, humble. Isn’t this uncredentialed person closer to God?

Those of you who are credentialed in your spirituality will remember Paul’s declaration that his standing (which was way, way more credentialed than my own) was, in reality, a pile of doo-doo in comparison to the righteousness of God. Scripture also tells us that God is more interested in our heart’s focused than on our credentials.

I’m not averse to the “credentials” — unless I start putting my faith in them instead of God. In those times, sometimes it’s a good idea to do as Francis (of Assissi) did with the wealth he would have inherited from his father.  Gasp if you will at the audacity of him stripping naked and walking out-of-town with nothing — but the Bible seems pretty clear in telling us that it is a better choice than being caught up in the things that so easily entangle.

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