“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” ~ Steve Jobs
When I posted this quote on Facebook, I was a little surprised by one of the responses to it. While I had read this as an encouragement, a challenge even, to break out of the box of other people’s expectations and follow your heart, a friend saw it differently. He said that as Christians, we are ‘overseers of the flock’ and have a responsibility ‘to help others in their lives for God’. But he really grabbed my attention by saying, ‘The scary part about that is it’s true. Our life is limited. We can die anytime. But for us to die and have God say we wasted our time doing nothing or not doing enough and that we lived it for ourselves and not for God’s will is worse.’
Wow. That sounds like a threatening God. That sounds like a God who is keeping a tally, ticking off how many souls I’ve brought back to the fold. That doesn’t sound quite right to me. I don’t ever remember Jesus sitting down with the apostles for a quarterly performance review. A good thing too because Peter would have been written up and probably fired.
Now I can’t completely dismiss what my friend says either. He’s right that as Christians we do have responsibilities toward others. But what exactly are those responsibilities? Some Christians that I know believe that they must convert everyone they know, leading as many souls to God as possible. They won’t take no for an answer. They will argue and even bully people to believe as they do. They do this in hopes that it will be ‘enough’, out of fear that if they somehow don’t meet their quota God will be angry or unforgiving. That doesn’t sound like the Jesus who hung out with the tax collectors, the sinners, the adulterous woman and chatted up the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus didn’t go about converting all those people with a scorecard in his pocket. He met people where they were in life, loved them as they were and it was love, not fear that brought people closer to God. Love was the key.
My high school renunion is tonight, which reminded me that our school motto is ‘Be Imitators Of Christ’. That’s not a threat. It’s not an end goal. It’s not a line in the sand. It’s an invitation to live a lifestyle of love and acceptance, not use religion as my ticket into heaven. It’s my duty to live my life as God has called me to live it. That means to follow my calling. As for others, it means I try (and no I don’t always succeed) to accept people as they are. What they believe and how they live their lives is their business. It’s not my duty to change their lives or to correct them (which could make me judgmental or righteous). I can lead only by example, to love as I have been loved. Yes, easier said than done. As for conversion, I leave that heavy lifting to God. I know he is at work in the lives of all people just as much as he is at work in mine. I trust that he knows what he’s doing.
I have no fear of death or of facing my maker. That my time here on earth is limited is not a threat of judgement but a promise of a joyous homecoming. God’s expectations are the only ones worth living up to. That being said, God is patient and God knows how much I try. And in the end, if I’ve got it all wrong, God will forgive me.