Great Things and Small Things

My friend Michael wrote a comment to me on Facebook about my blog post of yesterday on the Challenge of Discipleship. In response to my suggestion that we need to embrace the challenge of our discipleship and demand more of ourselves than society (and sometimes our churches) seem to demand of us, and that getting up in the morning and making lunch for my child to bring to school is not enough to make me a good Christian, he wrote:

Bringing lunch to your child at school may be the center of a Christian life for some (it also might be bad parenting for others). Terese’s little way has much to commend it, or as Mother Theresa said, our task is not to do great things but to do small things with great love. Christians make a big mistake (and I have made it most of my life) in thinking that we have to accomplish great things for/in Christ. I don’t mean that you are saying this but it might be implied.

I think there is a danger in the use of the term “great things” and “small things.” So perhaps the least confusing way I can respond to Michael’s point is to say that I believe our task is to do all that we are capable of doing for/in Christ. Sometimes all we are capable of is something that looks small. Sometimes it is something that looks quite heroic. Re the latter, I would add that not everyone has to be a hero or a martyr, but some people do. Sometimes big gestures or grand deeds are necessary so it can’t be the case that no one has to do them.

Like Michael, I don’t think one ought to approach Christian life by saying: What great things am I going to accomplish for/in Christ? But I do think the discernment about the best use of one’s gifts has to include asking oneself: Am I doing all I can for Christ?

I also think that need to encourage each other to do more. My use of the particular example of making lunch was intentionally critical of the message too often conveyed (and received) that whatever one is doing is good enough. Jesus challenged people; He did not walk around telling everyone that whatever they were already doing was fine.

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