There comes a time when one asks even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, “Is this all?”Attributed to Aldous Huxley
I believe that having meaning and purpose in life is important for human flourishing. This meaning both has to exist on a cosmic level, and it has to be lived out in the actions of everyday life. There has to be a connection between the meaning of life, the universe and everything (the cosmic story), and the ordinary activities of our life. In the last article, I spoke about the high calling of what 1 Peter calls the Royal Priesthood. Today, I am trying to make the connection between this profound image and the question of how can we live it out in our everyday life.
The Most Important Commandments
One day, an expert in the Jewish law tried to test Jesus (Luke 10:25 ff). Out of all 613 commandments that a faithful Jew needs to follow, he asked, which one is the most important? Jesus answered that there were two. In fact, you could boil down all the other commandments to these: love God, and love your neighbour.
A Royal Priesthood
We live out our priesthood by following the first of these two great commandments: love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Every follower of Jesus is a priest in the deepest sense. This means that we don’t have to go to God through an intermediary. There is no one we have to pay or bow to in order to talk to God. God is present and available to everyone. This is what we call the ‘priesthood of all believers.’
The priesthood of all believers means that we are called to love God by praying, worshipping, and giving praise. It means being present to him and giving our life to him. It means giving God our time and presence, and making God the centre of our lives. Living into our call as priests means loving the beauty of God’s handiwork in creation. It means walking in his ways and striving to live according to his commandments.
In the simplest understanding, it means taking time out of our day to be with God. It might be to study scripture or to pray. It might be to sit in silence. Whatever it looks like, we give God honour by making time to be in relationship with him. As I have said before, the most important thing is just showing up.
A Royal Priesthood
What about the ‘royal’ part? Does that mean I am a king? Not in a material sense, of course. But it does mean that I am a child of God, and no one can take my inherent dignity away from me. What is important to understand is that this dignified identity comes with a vocation: partnering with God to bring grace into the world. Obviously we are the junior partners in this, but God has given us the dignity of a vocation.
Loving Our Neighbours
What does it look like in everyday life? This was the second part of Jesus’ answer: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. Right after he said this, a lawyer asked for clarification: and who is my neighbour? Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan. (If you don’t know it, go read it right now! Luke 10:30-37. One of best stories in the world.)
His point was that to love your neighbour was very practical. Do good deeds to those who need them. And, by the way, your neighbour might not look like you, or follow your same religion. For Jesus, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Just serve, just love.
Discipleship means orienting our lives around these two directions: love of God and love of neighbour. This is how we honour God and grow in faith.