Sunday, July 11, 2010

Purpose, Passion and Pleasure-Seeking

I’ve noticed something about myself: when purpose drives my life, I’m passionate about life, but in the absence of purpose, I tend to focus on what pleases me, which leads to a lack-luster longing for more. I don’t think I’m unique in this, especially among guys. We thrive on purpose. Our identity rests on it, and in the absence of purpose, we find one: career, status, finances, skills, video games, drinking games or whatever else brings us pleasure. It can drive us to build great things, create new artwork, or just compete for competition’s sake. In the end, it can be filled with great worth or feed our vanity, and it whiles away the hours.

Now, there are a lot of worthy activities, and there are some less worthy ones. When we occupy ourselves with the less worthy pursuits, there’s a cost. When my purpose centers around my pleasure, the world suffers; I suffer. Whether it’s a short-term, immediate self-gratification or a long-term pursuit self-service, selfish ambition keeps me from developing more into the man I’m called to be and distracts me from building up others.

I believe one of our greatest regrets in eternity will come in the realization of the cost of our selfishness: the person who starved to death or the ripple-effect from our failure to come alongside our wounded neighbor or co-worker. What if we recognized in each moment our need to reach a hurting world, including the rest and self-preparation required to love on others?

But what a contrast when we live with a sense of greater purpose that flows from our identity! We are God’s ambassadors; He has reconciled with us, forgiven us, so that we can bring this Good News to others. What if we lived modestly so we could be better prepared to help others? What if we spent less on church building and more on Kingdom building. While the two are not always mutually exclusive, they far too often are: Empty halls except for one morning a week.

What if we looked at all our time, talents and treasures as a resource for building the Kingdom? What if we stopped focusing our attention on the lesser lights and truly lived in His Presence, joined Him in His work, and lived as if our identity came from more than what can ever be found in the temporary pleasures of this world?

Then, I think, we would look like the Body of Christ, and an unbelieving world would have cause to wonder why we live like this. They would ponder on the passion that came from unconditional and unwarranted love, and they would have no cause to label us as hypocrites, who profess one thing but live out something completely different.