When I was in seminary, we had a great unit called “Foundations of Ministry”. In it, we reflected on how others have have embraced their distinctiveness to minister, and how “who we are” impacts on our ministry.
We were once asked what were the qualities of a good pastor. In our groups we discussed and brought our responses together. We had attributes like, compassion, passion, generosity, kindness, being of a servant heart and selfless.
I was quite stoked that our answers were so nice and religious, surely we’d get a pat on the back. But our lecturer pointed out that there was a glaring omission. Competence. It didn’t matter how useless the pastor was at his job he was, so long as he was kind and honest.
With the majority of the class coming from an evangelical background, it made me think that there must be something wrong; something awry with modern evangelical teaching and thinking. And I’ve met some wonderfully kind and honest, likeable pastors at some churches who were not able to teach scripture, unable to really answer the hard questions of life. Surely God does indeed qualify the called, but how much better is it when the called then go and get qualified?
My friend David once stated that Gods love and Gods justice are only amazing because he is perfectly exceedingly competent (holy), and holiness is arguably then, the chief attribute of God. In Hebrew, the multiple use of words conveys its greatness or quality. For example, we might say that Gospel Brew is not just a blog, it’s a “blog blog” – It’s more blog, it’s better than a blog. So when in Isaiah 6:3 – the angels cry not only that God is holy, but he is “holy, holy holy” – the effect is compounded. God is perfect in his holiness.
Have you ever met someone really famous? A celebrity or a person of great influence? I meet some amazing graphic designers, and I feel pretty confident about my work really. But when I have to show it to someone who has reached the peak of design in Australia, my work feels totally inadequate and childish in comparison. If we, when we meet someone great, feel that our work inadequate and foolish in comparison – how much more when we meet moral perfection – holiness in God?
Maybe we don’t like to talk about perfection, about holiness, because we feel so inadequate – and our society has taught us that such feelings of inadequacy aren’t good. Feelings of inadequacy relating to my work drive me to become a more competent designer, Christian, human being. But because of the cross, where perfection and love met – ultimately, when confronted with my moral inadequacy with God, I’m also confronted with a love that lets me know that I am loved, accepted, valued and included – despite my inadequacy. And THIS love is the greatest motivator for change. It’s not in needing to prove oneself, but knowing that there is no need to prove anything anymore.
There’s no pressure of having some kind of moral debt to pay off, or owing it to ourselves to become better. We no longer owe anything to anybody – and we’re truly free to do good for goodness’ own sake, because of love.
In Christ we have the rationale to be kind, honest and incredibly useful. God has definitely called us despite our lack of qualifications, moral, academic or otherwise. But let’s take another look at God’s holiness. Lets not use God’s wonderful grace as an excuse to settle for mediocrity.