What is our purpose as Christians? It is a question often asked in Church, and the answers are varied. Some say it is to worship and bring glory to God. Others say it is to tell the world about Jesus and lead people to Christ. Still others say that we have a purpose unique to each of us that God expects us to fulfill.
While I think those answers are technically accurate, they’re terribly vague and unsatisfying. What does it mean to bring glory to God? How does one effectively lead others to Christ? And if we each have a unique purpose, how do we discover it and know we are living it out?
These are questions that I struggled with for years. I didn’t just need doctrinally correct words; to really answer these questions, I had to capture the spirit of Christ’s message. To be a Christian, to be a part of the Church, means to embody Christ. So what is his mind? His will? His posture?
The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. ~ Ephesians 1:23b, The Message
Early in his ministry, Jesus traveled to his hometown to reveal his identity and intentions as Messiah. While there, he reads these words from Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” ~ Isaiah 61:1
Then he tells his disciples:
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” ~ John 12:46-48
So right off the bat, we see that Christ’s ministry was one of freedom and restoration, not obligation or condemnation. Jesus himself said, “This is why I’m here.” And his focus was clearly on honoring the downtrodden.
“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” ~ Luke 9:47-48
* * *
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. ~ Matthew 5:3-6
* * *
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” ~ Matthew 23:23
What Jesus taught about honor and position was–and still is–radical. People who were poor and sick were viewed by the religious leaders as sinners under punishment by God. Children and widows had no status. Prostitutes were abhorred. Yet Jesus said that one like a child would be the greatest in his Kingdom. He told the Pharisees that prostitutes were entering the Kingdom ahead of them. He put his hands on lepers. He ate with tax collectors. He admonished his disciples to take no titles for themselves and, instead, choose to work as servants.
Jesus wasn’t into radical rules, but radical presence. He drew people to him through mercy that was authoritative in its fullness. He flipped the tables of cheats and oppressors and, thus, flipped our understanding of power and position within God’s Kingdom. His presence became a fragrance: a stink to the Pharisees, but a perfume to the poor and broken.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14
This is my purpose: to embody and spread the fragrance of Christ. To carry forth his purpose in restoring the broken and honoring the downtrodden. To love all.
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. ~ Isaiah 61:2-3
The Bible says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). It also says the devil came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). How do you destroy destruction? Through restoration.
I’ve heard Christians complain that modern society has become too obsessed with political correctness to be able to call out sin without offending people. Their focus is in the wrong place. Naming sins is easy. It makes us feel wise and justified. That’s not what Christ has called us to. Christ has called us to exude the fragrance of love and restoration. To demonstrate his compassion for the lost and wounded. To wipe the tears of those who mourn and crown with beauty those that the world has deemed ugly and unworthy.
This aroma is an offense to the flesh. It is uncomfortable to reach out to the one person weeping in the back corner and demonstrate to them the radical compassion of Christ. It is a blow to our pride to give up the spotlight so that another person can receive honor. It angers those in power when we insist on defending the cause of the poor and oppressed. If the afflicted are offended, you might be a jerk. If YOU are offended, you might be onto something.
This is how we bring glory to God. This is how we draw people to Jesus. This is how we fulfill our purpose: exuding the restorative essence of Christ. It’s a radical view of purpose. But so was everything Jesus taught.