Do you ever feel like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? I do and sometimes it is very frustrating. I used to to be a fairly round peg and so it was easy to fit in the round hole. Then I met Jesus and everything began to change. Slowly over time, as the Holy Spirit has been at work, I’ve become more of a square peg. At least that is what it feels like these days, though it seems there is still plenty of roundness to square out in me.
It is an amazing life that I wouldn’t change for a moment. But I will confess that in my weakest moments, I wonder what it would be like to not to have some of the convictions I have.
When I was a student at Harding University, I was listening to Dr. Ross Cochran speak about the follow two verses from John 17:17-18:
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
Jesus prayed that his disciples would be both sanctified (made holy) and sent into the world. This is probably where Christianity developed the cliché saying “in the word but not of the world.” The desire of Jesus is for his disciples to be distinct from the world in holiness and yet be among the world as missionaries.
Though I was not able to appreciate his remark at the time, Dr. Cochran said that there would always be tension in trying to live a life that is both sanctified and sent into the world. As Christians, we tend to either separate ourselves from the world at the expense of mission or sacrifice holiness for the sake of entering into the world. So taking both aspects of this prayer is a challenge.
As I remember, Dr. Cochran did not use the image of square pegs and round hole to describe this tension but the imagery helps put teeth to the tension (hence, the picture above). I certainly believe it is possible and essential for disciples of Jesus to live as people both sanctified and sent into the world, since Jesus did it. But this brings another question to mind: How do we be intentional about accepting and living within this tension of being both sanctified and sent into the world? And likewise, how does a local church as a collective body be intentional about accepting and living within this tension of being both sanctified and sent into the world?
When we answer the questions and put the answer into practice, we will be living as missional people, individually and communally, in the community.
I am planning to start applying for a Doctor of Ministry program at a couple of seminaries. I have a huge interest in the question of how the local church practices the Doctrine of Incarnation within the local community.
Despite a recent article in Christianity Today by J. Todd Billings which questions the incarnational ministry model, I still believe this is a viable model for ministry within the local church (you might also enjoy reading this Biblical Seminary Blog Post by Dr. David Dunbar which favors the incarnational ministry model). I believe the impetus for practicing the Doctrine of Incarnation lies within this prayer of Jesus, as the ability to be disciples who are both sanctified and sent into the world is only possible from the work of Father, Son, and Spirit (the entire final discourse from Jesus in John 14-17 is very Trinitarian).