The Heart of our Work

Article: The Work of the Week-What ministry is all about the other six days by Eugene Peterson, first appeared in the Summer 1983 issue of Leadership Journal as “Curing Souls: the Forgotten Art.”

Tchividjian says “Christianity is not first and foremost about our behaviour, our obedience, our response, and our daily victory over sin. It is first and foremost about Jesus! It is about His person; His substitutionary work; His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return. We are justified and sanctified by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. The banner under which Christians live reads “It is finished”. Everything we need and everything we look for in things smaller than Jesus, is already ours in Christ.” What then do we have to fuss about tomorrow?

I can see and relate to the frustrations Peterson has pointed out. It all seems to point to one core issue for us, who call ourselves “Christians”-Doing versus Being. We easily get caught up with “Doing”. We “Do” to get us to “Be”. Doing the work that helps us be something, be someone, to fulfil our given roles and responsibilities. Sometimes or even at most times, these roles & responsibilities given to us can be so much bigger than what we can take or ever imagine. When dealing with people and relationships gets tricky and situations becomes chaotic and out of hand, we start to panic and urge to take control, rarely with any involvement of God (if God is still in mind)-this, I am definitely ashamedly guilty of.

In my view, Peterson’s three areas of contrast between running a church (“Doing”) and the cure of souls (“Being”) brings out the essence of living by faith and not by sight. We are to trust God and believe He is in control even in what we do not see and/ or hear. As Peterson describes the work in the cure of souls, it essentially requires us to live and breathe the finished work of Christ alone, knowing God has been where we are, discerning traces of grace in this life, the history of God’s love as we interact with people and situations and the motion that we can get on where God has set in. It is definitely not just “Doing”. It is even more than “Being”. It seems like we have to forget ourselves in order to find true rest where the “Being” comes from who our God, our Lord and Saviour, our Father, is.

The Apostle Paul talks about the true character of gospel ministers and addresses the marks of a supernaturally changed heart as he writes to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 4). Paul appeals and gives his warnings to the church. He is not after some superficial outward tinkering, but a deep rooted, life altering change that takes place on the inside. In an age where pleasing people, puffing up our ego and building our résumé are seen as the methods to make it, to achieve, to lead to success, Paul calls us to find true rest in blessed self-forgetfulness. Keller talks about gospel humility where we can stop connecting every experience, every conversation with ourselves and can thus be free from constant self-examination that is likely to lead to arrogance or self-condemnation. A truly gospel humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a self-forgetful person.

I conclude, we can only be a true worker of cure of souls, essentially gospel ministers, directing worship in the traffic, discovering the presence of the cross in the paradoxes and chaos between Sundays, calling attention to the “splendour in the ordinary”, preparing for a good death (I like this best!) and most of all, teaching a life of prayer to our friends and companions in the pilgrimage, when we can find true rest in blessed self-forgetfulness and live and breathe Christ’s finished work as a way of life. I say these, not belittling the importance of “Doing”-the continuous training and education to enhance our God given skills & talents to carry out the work that God has given us but hoping to turn my heart to the right place as I “Do” and “Be”, a place of origin, where God is.

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free-Suffering Honestly Pg 85 by Tullian Tchividjian (Mar 1, 2014)

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Timothy Keller

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