As Jesus put this in Gospel Leadership 101: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last….” (John 15:16a)
We fear loss of control. We have anxiety over what life is like to be accountable to someone other than ourselves. It is somewhat frightening to construe our lives in such a theonomous cast, to have our lives lived in constant reference to the purposes of God. A life tethered to the movements of God can be tough. But it is also invigorating to receive the freedom and the dissonance of living the called life in a world where all too many people are answerable to nothing more than their own ill-formed desires.
Sometimes the call comes early (Jeremiah felt it from his time in the womb. “Before you were born…from the womb.” Jer. 1:5), sometimes it comes late as with Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 17). Whenever the call comes, in saying “Yes” to the summons, we yield to the adventure of a life free of the ideology of personal autonomy that so enslaves this culture. We are owned, commandeered for God, being used for purposes greater than ourselves.
And with this demanding, even frightening call comes a promise for young Jeremiah, an astounding promise: I will put you over kingdoms and nations, I will give you authority to pull down empires and make new kingdoms (v. 10).
The absurdity of telling something like this to this kid! You shall be a prophet! You will speak truth to power. You will go up to the palace and bring this whole kingdom to its knees so that I might plant a new kingdom in its place. What absurd ambitions!
Yet, have we not noted, this is an absurdly gracious God. The God who would create a world out of nothing, on the basis of nothing but words, the God who would make a chosen people out of a rag tag tribe of nomads, a God who would raise Jesus from the dead – is just the sort of God who would think it cool to call a kid to speak words that shake the whole world. Would be just the sort of God who would think it fun to make a claim on a life like yours, to have your name since you were in the womb, to have plans for you, a job to fill, a task to undertake.
Jesus begins his ministry by assembling a gaggle of ex fishermen, tax collectors and assorted peasants. He turns to the twelve of them, calls them each by name and says, “I’m going to take over the world. And guess who’s going to help me?”