April 13, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 1:2 (NRSV)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
To be sure, God calls individuals to know him and serve him. But God also calls us in community. Together, we are called to be God’s special people. Together, we seek God’s guidance for our lives. Together, we help each other to hear and respond to our particular callings in life.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
In a previous devotion I talked about the tendency in the church of my youth to assume that calling was mainly or exclusively for religious leaders, that is, for ordained pastors, official missionaries, and the like. Yet, we have seen that as the Apostle Paul talks about calling in 1 Corinthians, all believers in Jesus are “called to be saints,” or, as I have suggested, “called to be God’s special people.”
There was another way my early sense of calling was deficient. I was always assumed that calling was something for an individual. God called people singularly to serve him in special ways. I could refer to “her calling” or “my calling” but never “their calling” or “our calling.”
We find something different and more expansive in 1 Corinthians. Yes, Paul was called as an individual to be an apostle of Christ (1:1). But the members of the church in Corinth were also “called to be saints” (1:2). This calling had a distinctly communal dimension. It’s possible to read the Greek here as implying that each individual Christian in Corinth had an individual calling to individual sainthood, but that reading is unlikely, especially given the problem of divisive individualism in the Corinthian congregation.
Moreover, the curious phrase that comes after “called to be saints” underscores the corporate sense of calling. Not only are the Corinthian Christians “called to be saints,” but also they share this calling “together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2). The fact that God calls all Christians is something that binds us together in the church. Even as he chose Israel to be for him a “holy people,” so we who follow Jesus are called to be holy together, not just individually. We receive our calling both in community and as a community.
Why is this so important? Because if we conceive of our calling in purely individualistic terms, we’ll miss so much of what God has for us. We’ll miss the joy and challenge of striving together with other saints to be the holy people of God. Moreover, we’ll be apt to imagine that we’ll hear our personal calling when we are alone, rather than in community with other believers. Though God can certainly call us when we are by ourselves, his calling is often heard and confirmed in Christian community. You remember, for example, that Paul had a dramatic individual calling on the road to Damascus, as the risen Jesus spoke to him in a blinding light (Acts 9). But Paul’s calling was supported and confirmed by other believers who bore witness to the power of his preaching. And, though he doesn’t say so explicitly, surely Paul considered himself to be among the Christians who were called to be saints. Though he had a distinctive apostolic calling, he shared in the calling extended to all believers.
So, as you think about your own calling, it’s fine to seek clarity about the unique way (or ways) God is calling you. But remember that you also share in a calling extended to all of God’s people in community. Moreover, you may very well hear God’s particular calling to you, not when you’re all by yourself on the road to Damascus, but then you are gathered with other believers.
Do you think of calling as something shared in community with other Christians? If so, why? If not, why not?
If we are called to be God’s special people together, what difference might this make in the way we think, feel, and act?
Talk with your small group or with a wise friend about the idea of being called together by God. See if you can discover ways in which you share together in God’s calling right now.
Gracious God, thank you for calling us into relationship with you. Thank you for calling us into your work in the world. Thank you for calling us as individuals. And thank you for calling us together to be a holy people for you.
As we consider your call upon our lives, help us to remember the “together” dimension of our calling. Help us to act together in response to your call, so that we might honor you not just in our individual lives, but also in our life together as your church. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: All Are Called (1 Corinthians 1:1–3)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.