Christianity 201

August 18, 2012

Desiring to be Known

While God wired us with a tremendous capacity to respond to Him spiritually, he also gave us egos that long to be satisfied. Included in that is a desire to be known, to be recognized. This bears on larger issues, such as pride and humility, and it varies greatly between faith families. Growing up in Toronto, Canada at a time when the Saturday newspaper boasted two large pages full of church advertising, it was interesting to notice that in one particular denomination, the announcements for the Sunday services almost always included a photograph of the pastor or guest speaker.

True, we elevate some pastors to superstar status, but the average disciple is looking for a few strokes as well. Sadly, some people don’t give money to a significant project unless there is going to be a small plaque bearing their name, or some recognition in a printed special event program. Even in very small social clusters, some people have what I would term attention addiction. Despite everything Galileo discovered, they believe the universe revolves around them.

Author and theology professor at Regent College (Vancouver, BC) John Stackhouse touched on this two weeks ago in a post he titled, Hoping to Get Noticed.

I don’t get enough attention. You might think I do, but I don’t. Do you? I’ll bet you don’t, either.

Some people get more attention than they deserve. Kim Kardashian comes to mind–and I really wish she wouldn’t, because now she’s getting even more attention than she deserves. Certain politicians, film stars, athletes, other entertainers (see what I did there regarding politicians? Man, I do not get enough props!)–they get more than their share. Hardworking folk like you and me? Not so much.

To be sure, it’s not obvious what “enough” would mean. American humorist Garrison Keillor confessed that what he really wants people to do when they appreciatively greet him after one of his “Prairie Home Companion” radio shows is not to say, “Hey, good show!” but to fall down and worship him as the Sun God.

I don’t want that much responsibility, but I’d settle for [an embarrassingly lengthy and detailed list has been deleted from this space by my better nature].

Yet the Lord Jesus Christ said,

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Okay, that’s actually not a problem for me. My financial giving is always done sub rosa, via cheques, or direct deposits, or the like. Only my wife and the Canada Revenue Agency know what I give–although, I confess, it isn’t enough to make either of them blow any trumpets….

But today it seemed to me (if I were Pentecostal, I’d say, “the Lord showed me”) that what applies to charitable giving applies to everything I do. I should be doing everything I do without expectation of praise and reward from other people. I should be doing what I do because it is my assignment from God. Indeed, since I am God’s agent participating in God’s mission, I can appreciate that often it will be best for the mission if I am not recognized, if my work makes its way more quietly in the world than I might prefer.

God has promised us “the reward of the inheritance” (Col. 3:24). He has promised generous recompense–not just what we deserve, but far more than we deserve–in the world to come. And part of our coming into “glory” is that all that we are and have and have done will be fully publicized, made fully manifest (that’s what “glorified” means), so that our human peers will celebrate with us–and celebrate us–openly, fully, gladly, satisfyingly.

In the meanwhile, then, we soldier on, faithfully executing our part of the plan, confident that God has called us to valuable work (boring, or irrelevant, or even disgusting as it might be) that will ultimately pay off big for God, the world, and ourselves.

Onward, Christian soldiers!–however you are deployed today, however prominently or humbly, however praised or ignored. Carry on in hopeful faith. The eventual awards banquet is going to be entirely worth waiting for.

~John Stackhouse

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