Everybody’s On (Some) Purpose


Are you focused on goal achieving or tension relieving?

At the root, everything we do has purpose. We do stuff to make ourselves look good. To relieve physical or sexual pressure. To rid ourselves of guilt. Or just feel better. It’s been said that everything we do is either goal achieving or tension relieving. On a “here and now” basis, that’s hard to argue.

But extend the time horizon and our purpose can look a lot different. I know people who’ll spend the rest of their lives avoiding pain and the risk of discomfort. They save. They preserve. Protect. Insure. And they hide.

I know people who are consumed with making themselves look successful, beautiful, creative, athletic, and popular. They live their lives around what “they” think, never even asking who “they” are. It would kill them to know others see them all wrapped up in managing their image. They want it to look like it’s natural. Some of us will eventually move beyond all this posing. All this self-focused mask-wearing. Having our radio tuned exclusively to “W I I F M” (what’s in it for me). As we mature, we get a sense we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to fit in AND make a difference. We want to matter. And we want to connect with people who think like us. So we take up a cause or embrace a philosophy and that becomes our purpose. Here are a few examples of people and purpose…

Secular Humanist -“My purpose is to help people”

Environmentalist – “My purpose is to save the planet”

Scientologist – “My purpose is to resolve life’s common problems of existence and achieve greater spiritual awareness”

Hedonist – “My purpose is to feel good and ‘experience it all’”

American – “My purpose is just to have the good life (whatever that is)”

Nihilist – “My purpose is to have no purpose”

But what about us Christians

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re a Christian or someday will be. Purpose is something Jews will agree with Christians on. Made by and for the One True God.

When I look for something Christians agree on, purpose might be it. From Catholicism to Calvinism, from Joel Osteen’s mega-mega church to the smallest house church, believers agree we were created to “Glorify God.” All the way back to the 1640’s, in the Westminster Catechism…

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

We are beings created to worship God. Worshippers. That’s the easy part.

When you start bringing that down to something that’s understandable and relevant, it gets pretty squirrelly. A big part of it comes down to how you see God. Some see God as all-powerful judge whose standard is holiness. Glorifying Him involves being pious and as holy as we can be. For those times they fail, they need to makes sacrifices to appease this Holy God who is perfect and demands perfection. If you see God as the big, beautiful, benevolent, universal God who is about nothing but love, glorifying Him is about loving everything and everybody.

But if you buy into Jesus and what He taught, God is best understood and related to as our Father. He is holy, just, and full of truth, but He’s also loving, forgiving and full of grace. Jesus showed us what it’s like to live as one of God’s sons, loving and serving people as He followed His Father’s will and modeled the perfectly fulfilled, God-centric life.

The other question Jesus settled for us was about what matters to God. He stood in the awesome man-made Temple and rendered it irrelevant, declaring Himself to be the Temple. The Temple to be torn down and raised again in three days. He taught the “Kingdom of God” existing in the hearts and souls of people. Everything else, including the ‘stuff’ we accumulate will be ‘wood, hay and stubble’ when life on earth ends. He assured us that God’s Word is timeless and will go on from age to age. Only people and God’s Word are of eternal value to God.

The rest are ‘object lessons’ to keep us alive and busy and teach us stuff.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He said it was loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And then loving others as yourself.

So how do we love God?

Pretty easy to answer “Worship Him.” “Obey His commandments.” All the obvious stuff. But Jesus made it way more complicated when He started talking about loving people.

“When you’ve done it to the ‘least of these’, you’ve done it to Me” (Matt. 25:40).

“Think of others better than yourself” (Phil 2:3).

The Bible makes it clear. Loving others, especially those who are somehow beneath, below, or behind you, is a universal purpose directive for Christ-followers.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (I John 3:17).

So we can begin our purpose statement like this….

“I ( _ fill in your name _ ) glorify God by loving others.”

I can’t think of a single human being who claims to be a Christian who can’t sign up for this. It’s clean, clear and simple to say. Simple to understand. We love God by loving His children. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.”

We are God’s lovers for others. It sort of rhymes.

Love as a verb…..it’s spelled S-E-R-V-E

The only love that’s real is love that’s demonstrated. Love as a concept is just that… a concept. World peace is a concept. Harmony. Utopia. All concepts.

But when a lover becomes a servant, love becomes real.

Jesus showed His love for His disciples. He taught them what He knew. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He gave them purpose. He gave them food sometimes. But His love was still pretty conceptual … until He took off His coat, got down on His knees and washed their feet. Just like they say “orphan” is just a word until you hold one, God’s love is pretty conceptual until someone personifies it through service. Jesus was the first and by far the most profound.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

-John 13

“You will be blessed if you do them.” Love serves. Love does.

Adding “serve” to our purpose statement, we now have…

“I ( _ fill in your name _ ) glorify God by loving and serving others.”

There’s one more piece to this puzzle, at least according to my process. And it’s the most personal. Unique. And candidly, it’s the hardest to come up with. It’s your ‘third word.’

Dr. James Merritt
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