Someone once said that there is a solution to every problem that is simple, neat, and wrong.
We live in an age of ideological and sentimental driven social thinking and mass action. We’ve grown up convinced that if an idea can’t fit into a soundbite it’s not worth thinking about. That is simple, it is neat, it makes it easy to sell ad space for box cereal and prescription meds between the soundbites of misinformation; and it is very very wrong! It is wrong on many levels, but the most important one is that human life is not simple and those who will master it need to be robust and lateral thinkers.
We’ve grown up convinced that if an idea can’t fit into a sound bite it’s not worth thinking about.
This is one of the problems I have with Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.
Human life was not designed to be driven by purpose, every other species was. Fungi, grasshoppers, plankton, lions... all others are the creatures who’s lives are driven by purpose. Fungi break matter down, lions hunt antelope, antelope run away from lions... etc. Human beings are the creatures who’s purpose was to be driven by their lives; in particular their identities.
God did not say, “let us create mankind to work the garden and rule the earth.” He said, “let us create mankind in our image.”
From that position comes purpose, and human purpose can change, or even disappear, while human identity remains intact. Which is why it's ethical, sometimes even humane, to euthanize an animals that no longer serves its purpose; but it's not ethical to do tat with any human person.
I believe that this sugar type addiction to purpose is leading us into some very dark territory, creating mental illness, emotional exhaustion, and depression; and forcing people into moulds they were not made to fit into. Not only is being driven by purpose addictive, it is also relationally sedentary. It does not force us to overcome our guilt and shame in Christ, it does not train us to love others in Christ; it leads us instead from one existential crisis into another. At the heart of biblical rest, or what the Bible calls sabbath, is identity, not purpose.
Human beings are the creatures who’s purpose was to be driven by their lives; in particular their identities.
Sadly though it’s so much simpler, so much easier to find a purpose to drive my life than it is to wrestle with and submit to my identity in Christ, I would argue though that it is well worth the wrestle. The first step is to realize that I can work for my purpose, I can work my fingers to the bone and in so doing I can feel OK about myself; but I cannot lift a finger to add to my identity. It all comes from Christ, every iota, and it is scary and deeply humbling to let another, especially God, determine it. To stand naked before God and His Counsel like Joshua in Zechariah 3 and let Him choose your spiritual wardrobe. It's so much more self-fulfilling to sew up one's own identity out of our life's purpose and work; it is also futile and proud and self destructive.
Like Jacob God wants to give you a new name. If you would take the risk to wrestle with Him, He will bless you. Not with a new job, but with a new name.
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Being known by God comes first, identity drives purpose, calling is driven by life; not the other way round.
If Jesus is who he says he is then you are also who he says you are and your purpose, when you look for it, will be found in that identity. When we let purpose drive life, even Christian purpose, we create another human pyramid Ponzi scheme. The first one, of course, was created by the snake in the garden. Eve and Adam fell right into that one; and every mythology and religion from pagan tribal to reincarnation reiterates the exact same idea: Let purpose drive your life. We are taught that we will find our life when we find our purpose; we are told that a man or a woman without a purpose is nothing. And we watch our purpose driven heroes reach the pinnacle of their life-calling only to come crashing down mentally, emotionally, or morally.
This is not the way of the Christian. The Way of Christ demands that we establish identity first. Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." This is not a call to discover purpose, it is a call to settle identity because "The Kingdom of God is within you," (Luke 17:21). You cannot seek The Kingdom purpose until you have thoroughly surveyed the Kingdom of God which is within you; until you have deposed the wickedness that is also within, and established God's righteousness. All these things are part of the Christian's identity. Then the other things, like purpose, can be added to a settled life.
In The Matrix trilogy Neo and The Oracle have an interesting discussion about how destiny and drive relate to free choice. It serves as a great illustration for us:
The Oracle: You've already made the choice, now you have to understand it.
Neo: No, I can't do that. I won't.
The Oracle: You have to.
The Oracle: Because you're The One.
It’s a fascinating concept, they are just touching, of course, on a fundamental truth that the Bible is constantly screaming at us from Adam to Noah, Abraham to Saul and David, the prophets, the apostles, and especially Jesus: Your life is not to be driven by purpose, your purpose is to be driven by who you are in Christ.
If Jesus is who he says he is then you are also who he says you are.
These thoughts are in my mind because I am busy writing my second book, Doing Good. It’s a book about the nuts and bolts of biblical ethics. Before we decide to act, before we can understand our decisions and God's will, we need to be sure of who we are.
If these concepts interest you I encourage you to read my first book The Subjective God
available on Amazon here: