Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
“God called me”
The most common use of the phrase “God called me…” in today’s culture seems to be in reference to what kind of work we do. But, I have recently been reflecting on this idea, exploring the use of this phrase throughout the Bible, and I’ve found a wealth of understanding about what we are truly “called” to.
The first call that ever went out was to Adam in the Garden. The LORD called to him, “Where are you?” And God has been calling out to men ever since. The Hebrews reference above shows us that there is a calling to service and work, yet the greater context is a call to relationship. When God called Christ to be a high priest, he said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
Throughout the story of Jesus and his disciples, we see example after example of what God has called us to as his children.
Peter talks about being “called” a lot:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
To [suffering for what is right] you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this [ie, blessing] you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Peter’s view on the call of God has little to do with one’s occupation or service work. Rather, his focus seems to be on the call to glory in the sufferings of Jesus, knowing that if we do good to those who hurt us, we will share in eternal glory. God is the Judge and the God of all grace, and he will make everything right one day. We only need to follow his lead, stand for what is good and right, and control ourselves in the middle of a “perverse and crooked generation.” Interestingly, Peter shows them that they are to do this as a people built together “like living stones”.
Paul also used the word “called” many times:
While he shows us that he was “called to be an apostle,” he more often shows us non-occupational uses of the word:
…God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this [ie, to be saved and set apart by the spirit and truth] through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
The life we live; not the work we do
There are dozens of other uses of the word “called” in the writings of Jesus’ people, but the great majority of them focus the kind of life we can now live, not the kind of work we are supposed to do.
This is because our quality of life and work is always directly impacted by core relationships we have. In English, we don’t pick up that most of the “you’s” in these sentences are plural. Notice, “brothers and sisters were called to be free…serve one another.” The calling Peter and Paul are writing about is a communal calling of a people to live in proper relationship with God and each other.
As children, before we knew how to work, we could only relate to people. Our fundamental needs (besides food and water) are to be loved, to relate, to be accepted, to be forgiven, approved and known. Only after these are met do we find ourselves yearning for ultimate purpose in work and significance in life.
Designed for relationship
God made us this way. His created order is that humans first connected with him in relationship, and from that position of relational connectivity, they worked. Because of sin, unfortunately, we try to work to cover up our bad relationships. Work drowns out the inner cry of desperation.
Brothers and sisters, this does not have to be so. God longs to fill us with goodness, joy and peace. We can connect with Him and with each other if we will. Jesus has made a way through his spilled blood to make up for all wrong doing. Turn to him, for he has turned to you.
This summer our community of Christ followers will join together in Supper Clubs throughout the Triangle. Won’t you join us? After Paul taught the early disciples they were “members of one body called to peace.” And Peter, his co-worker among the Jews taught us that we are, “like living stones, being built into a spiritual house…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”
God has called us and bound us together to be “a people.” Won’t you join in?