You astute Christians: I know what you’re probably thinking. I’m guessing you think I’m going to talk about how we find our value only in Christ. You are partially correct. But have you thought about how that value is made evident to us?
It’s true that we can discern the truth of it in careful study of the Bible. It’s also true that we can be told about it by faithful teachers of the Bible who have done the study. But have you noticed that people don’t simply obey the Bible just because they have studied it? The teachings powerful for persuasion are given with testimonies by people who have experienced it in some practical way in their lives or who, in the process of discipling someone; lead them to put the teachings into practice themselves.
Among other things that Yancey Arrington wishes he had known about discipleship, one is that “it’s found in a network of relationships.” Discipleship gives the disciple a sense of value in the Church. Truly, God doesn’t need any one of us. He created the universe without our help. In fact, not only does God not need us, we need him. We have negative value as members of a fallen world. All of us deserve not only death, but eternal torture as punishment for our insolent sin. The only man who doesn’t deserve that kind of punishment is God himself who took on flesh and dwelled among us as the man, Jesus Christ. By the death of his body on the cross, he paid the price we deserve to pay. In that way, we were given value worthy of eternal life with God.
But we don’t apprehend that value by claiming ourselves worthy of it. We apprehend that value by understanding that we are not worthy of it. This seems contradictory and is often difficult for young believers, as well as many older ones, to balance.
Dave Miller at SBC Voices illustrates this in his recent article about Busy Pastors. Pastors often find some value in the amount of work they do. So even mature Christians can struggle with the contradistinction between lack of value in our sinfulness and value given by God outside of our actions.
God calls us to serve him. Our value is not in serving him, but in being served by Christ in salvation. Nevertheless, we give honor to people according to what they do in the Kingdom. That gives the illusion that we gain value by doing good things. Rather, we demonstrate God’s value when we do good things. But when we disciple each other in accordance with the Great Commission, we must often temporarily play to people’s need to feel valued.
Kate Mulvey is no Christian. She is a self-centered self-valued woman who has determined that men hate her for being smarter than them. So at age 50, Kate is still single. Kate’s problem is not that she is too smart. Her problem is that she hasn’t found a man that’s valuable to her. She is self-sufficient and there’s nothing a man can do to add positively to her identity. It’s the same reason why Hollywood movie stars jump from spouse to spouse and why many people in this culture anymore have trouble with commitment.
People will go where they are valued.
It’s the same thing in churches. People hop from church to church when they are looking for a sense of being valued. So churches try hard to be nice to new people. But there is a difference between being nice to each other and living in true Christian fellowship. Being nice to each other feels like you are valued for a short period of time. But true Christian fellowship is a lasting relationship between believers that gives each the sense of being valued. That sense might come from the relationship, but it’s lasting because it’s rooted in ongoing discipleship. So the value comes from Christ.
Do you want people to stick around? See their value in Christ and treat them accordingly. Don’t just be nice. Give your fellowship in good times and bad. Let people know how you need them, not just in general but in specific ways. This is how the gospel works through the Great Commission in the discipleship in the Church to hold churches together.