In my last post I wrote about running, so I thought I’d continue with that theme today. Whenever I go for a jog, I like to listen to praise music. Unfortunately, on one occasion when I popped in the earbuds, one of them didn’t work. I tried to fiddle with it, but nothing helped. At first I was somewhat annoyed by this, as I was hoping to have a wonderful time running and praising God (silently of course!).
Once I got over the annoyance of having to listen to music in only one ear, I wondered whether this might be a good metaphor for the missional life. As Christians, we know we are to be ‘in the world but not of it’ (John 17). That is, we are to be in touch with God, while at the same time interacting with those in our everyday world. While I may get this intellectually, it struck me that this is not necessarily what I always want – this ‘halfway’ place is not comfortable. I would rather be ‘in the zone with God’ rather than have to deal with all the problems of my world – being with God can sometimes become a type of escape. While I believe there are certainly times for that, I think that usually we’re supposed to occupy this middle space – one ear listening to God, one ear listening to the world, and trying to build bridges between the two. You might even say this is the primary responsibility given to believers in our role as priests (1 Peter 2:9).
Of course, this is no easy task, and it sometimes feels like ‘work’ – it’s much easier to keep the two worlds separate, to give God what we might imagine is ‘His time’ (Sunday mornings, small group, devotionals, etc.) and to give the world its time (our jobs, our hobbies, vacation, etc.). But that’s not what we’re being called to do as followers of Jesus. It’s all His time. So instead we are invited to the sometimes uncomfortable place of listening to both God and the world, and trying to bridge the gap – just as Christ modeled for us in His earthly ministry, and ultimately on the cross.
In the end, I decided to tuck the broken earbud into my pocket, and ran with just one earbud in place. I’m sure it looked a little odd, but to me it was a visible symbol of the role we are asked to play everyday as we seek to advance His Kingdom.
Chris Lake co-founded the Vere Institute (Oct 2014 – May 2021) to empower Christians to integrate their faith into everyday life, their “frontlines.” Chris continues to serve pastors through offering transitional coaching. You can find him on LinkedIn. The Vere Institute’s legacy lives on through our Vere Archive, a republishing of many of their written works.