And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another. -1 John 3:23
What is your purpose?
For many of us, this is a life-long, or at least a recurring, question. Starting in childhood, we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up, and we’re encouraged to dream about our professions, our family structures, the communities we’ll join, and how we’ll contribute. Sometimes we feel confident that we’re fulfilling our purpose and at other times we feel purposeless, drifting in uncertainty. Our purpose may change as seasons of life change. Perhaps your purpose in one season was to learn, and in another to parent, and now with grown children, to serve in a new way. Living purposefully looks a little different for each of us. As Christians, we know that God shaped each of us with unique gifts, traits, experiences, and personalities to fulfill God’s purposes. Depending on where you find yourself in life, this question about your purpose can be inspiring or daunting…or a bit of both.
Even as we seek God’s unique plans for us, it’s important to remember that, as members of the body of Christ, we each have a purpose that isn’t unique at all. A purpose that applies to all of us without ambiguity or exception is Jesus’ command to love God and love people. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31), and in today’s reading, John reminds us that this command has been given to all Christians in all times and places. There’s no question about whether it applies to you. It does. This is your purpose. This is our purpose.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty about where God is leading you, keep seeking, but also find rest in the certainty that Jesus has already given you this commandment. If you’re doubtful that you have a purpose at all, listen up: you do! No one is exempt from this. Loving God and loving people is always in line with God’s plans.
But how do we do it? Well, that’s where our uniqueness can come into play, because there are infinite ways we might bring Jesus’ love into the world. But even as there’s room for variety, 1 John 3:16-18 gives us straightforward instructions: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 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? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” We love God and love people through our actions. We listen, we give, we serve, we encourage, we pray, we protect, we invest, we advocate, we defend, we share, we sacrifice. Jesus told us how to do it, and Jesus showed us how to do it.
Imagine what our world would look like if we all lived with an undivided commitment to this common purpose. May you find satisfaction and joy in acting upon God’s universal call to love God and neighbor. And may you gain specific insight about how you can follow Jesus’ command to love.