Many Christians talk about being called. Whether it’s to this ministry or to that particular church, many use the word “calling” to state their certainty in making decisions. In fact, it no longer is a decision when someone says they have been “called” to something. It means that something or someone external to them has summoned them to make a decision. In some ways it can be used to justify irrational and unwise choices. Some have stated they were called to be a missionary in another country when they haven’t lead anyone to know Christ in their home country. Others use their “calling” as a way to justify verbally assaulting and bullying others under the guise of their prophetic calling. After all, it can’t be wrong if God called you to it. But God never calls us to violate scripture, the wisdom of the community, and his character. Violating any one of those things should give us reason to pause and if we violate all of them we can be sure that it is not God. What does it mean to be called? Who is doing the calling? Is it an audible voice that is heard or is it an internal feeling?
For followers of Christ, the concept of calling is rooted in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets. These ancient spokesmen for God endured all kinds of opposition because they were called by God to be his mouthpieces. They had an encounter with God and left that encounter with a task to be completed. In the New Testament this same process can be seen in the life of the twelve apostles. Jesus called these twelve, while they were occupied in their various life’s activities, to be with him and to learn from him. This also happened in the life of the apostle Paul. Paul was on his way to persecute followers of Christ, but Jesus stopped him on the road and told him to preach the good news about Jesus. Later on, Paul says in Ephesians 4 that all followers of Christ have a calling from God. What is this calling?
While hearing an audible voice could be possible since we are dealing with God, our calling is usually not as detailed and leaves open a wide range of possibilities. As followers of Jesus, we have been called to an apprentice relationship with him. This relationship is one of submission to his authority and imitation of who he is and what he did while here on earth. Before Paul received his calling to preach, he first was called into relationship with Jesus who had been pursuing him all along. This is the true meaning of being called. We are all called to accept the love of God. We are called to love him back. We are called to follow the footsteps of Jesus. Whether we hear an audible voice or get an internal feeling is not the point. The point is that God is calling us to him. The word that we often use in terms of career is vocation. This word has its roots in this calling to relationship that all followers of Christ share. In other words our job or vocation is to be loved by God and to love him with all our heart, soul, and mind. Wherever that takes us is secondary to being in relationship with God and following Jesus. Any idea or decision that leads us away from living our life the way Jesus did takes us away from this calling. It is not about the idea or decision but the person of Christ. This calling to relationship with him can take us to the streets of the inner city or to the jungles of Thailand. It can summon us to become married with children or to be single. Being called means diving into intimacy with Jesus and following him wherever he leads you. Relationship with God is our ultimate calling.