If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”—1 Corinthians 12:17-21

In this passage from 1 Corinthians, the Bible compares the church to a body, which has many parts that are different from each other but need each other.  It says that it wouldn’t be good for all the parts to be the same, and that God is the one who made us different.  It says that it’s a mistake to think we don’t need the people who are different from us.

In its context, the passage is teaching us about spiritual gifts:  God has gifted each of us differently, and we shouldn’t take pride in the gifts He has chosen to give us, nor should we be ashamed of them.  We also shouldn’t think others are better or worse than us because of the different gifts He has chosen to give them. We should remember that we need those people.  I have come to believe that this principle applies not only to God-given gifts, but to God-given passions as well.  Let me explain.

Each of the following statements is something I have heard (not always in these exact words) from well-meaning Christians:

“Children’s ministry is clearly the most important ministry in the church.  Children are our future!”

“Youth ministry is clearly the most important ministry in the church.  Teenagers are the next generation of the church!”

“Prayer is clearly the most important ministry of the church.  How can we do anything for God without the power of prayer?”

“Worship is clearly the most important ministry of the church.  After all, we were made to worship God, and that’s what we’ll be doing in heaven!”

“Bible teaching is clearly the most important ministry of the church.  What could be more important than the teaching of God’s Word?”

“I just don’t see how anyone can call themselves a Christian if they’re not committed to fighting poverty.”

“I just don’t see how anyone can call themselves a Christian if they’re not committed to fighting abortion.”

“I just don’t see how anyone can call themselves a Christian if they’re not passionate about global missions.”

And the list goes on.  When God gives us a passion for something, we seem to have a hard time grasping that He may not have given everyone around us the same passion.  We experience something that moves our hearts, and we can’t imagine that anyone wouldn’t be as moved by it as we are.  We interpret their lack of enthusiasm as immaturity or worldliness.  We forget that it’s a great big world full of all kinds of needs, and that we have a great big creative God who is an expert at equipping different people to meet those needs.  When we do this, we make ourselves the standard for what it means to be a “serious” Christian, and we make the church a place of judgment and self-superiority.

Maybe you’ve had the experience of being made to feel guilty because you didn’t share someone else’s passion.  If you didn’t show up to pray, or sing, or study, or march, or serve in that particular ministry, are you sure you’re a committed follower of Christ?  What’s wrong with you, that you don’t feel as strongly as I do about this?  Can’t you see how great the need is?

There is a better way.  I love this quote by Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What’s interesting about this statement is that Howard Thurman was a man who had his own passions.  He was a pastor and educator, but he is known primarily as a leader in the civil rights movement.  He served as a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we honored this past week.  No one would have been surprised if Thurman had said, “I just don’t see how anyone can call themselves a Christian if they aren’t dedicated to the cause of racial justice.”  But he didn’t say that.  He didn’t insist that everyone needed to share his passion.  He had faith that God knows what He’s doing when He makes people with their unique strengths and interests.  He encouraged people to discover what God had put in their hearts, and then pursue it with everything they had.  He knew that people come alive when they are doing what they were made to do, not when they are doing what someone else thinks they should do.  And he trusted that the great needs of this world would be met if everyone were doing what made them come alive.

What makes you come alive?  What do you love?  What are you passionate about?  Do you have plans to devote more of your time and energy to those things in this new year?  Don’t waste time (yours or anyone else’s) trying to convince people that they should feel just as strongly as you do about whatever it is.  Just do it, with all the strength God gives you.  Some people may see you and be inspired to join in.  Others are called to meet a different need, or perhaps they’re being stubborn and missing out on what God made them to do.  Let Him worry about that.  Focus on being the person He made you to be, with your strengths, your passions, your unique gifts and interests.  When you do, you can trust that the world around you will be blessed.

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