And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV)
“Now why is she famous?” I asked my wife as we watched a story on the news together.
“Because such-and-such athlete from the seventies and was on a Wheaties cereal box is married to her mother,” she says.
“So what does she do?” I ask.
“She’s famous because everyone buys the clothes she wears, eats in restaurants she frequents, and visits the resorts where she vacations,” she informs me.
“Oh. So she’s like the world’s most awesome shopper?” I ask, thinking I might be starting to get it.
“Nevermind,” she says.
People are set apart from the rest of the population as somebodies just because they’re famous. People are famous for being famous. In the Roman world Paul lived in when he wrote the verse above in a letter to some church people, famous people were regularly elevated to god-like status. People were so bent on hero worship that they couldn’t wait turn a nobody into a somebody. That very thing happened to Paul and one of his friends when God did something miraculous through them (see Acts 14:11). A mob declared them Greek gods and worshiped them as somebodies while the rest of the crowd remained nobodies.
If I’m completely transparent, one of the reasons I went into the mission field was I wanted to be a somebody. I loved hearing missionaries tell their stories and I wanted to have stories of my own. I didn’t want to have the normal stories every other nobody had. I wanted to have exploits and adventures under my belt. I wanted to be the missionary version of Behr Grylls. I wanted bragging rights. I wanted the right to brag about everything I did (for Jesus). I wanted to be a famous somebody like Jim Elliot only I didn’t want to die on my way to notoriety.
I hope you realize, dear reader, that I’m writing “tongue-in-cheek”. Mostly.
After arriving on the mission field with my family, I was hit with a sobering dose of reality. Living as a missionary day-to-day is difficult. Often, on the mission field, you can get much more done working as a nobody than a somebody. Once you’re somebody on the mission field, everybody wants something from you and it isn’t usually gospel related. Paul wanted his readers to know that there is a wiser way to live.
We live in a world where somebodies are celebrated and nobodies are ignored. Even when you are in Christ, it feels oddly unnatural not to separate the somebodies from the nobodies.
No matter where God has called you to serve as a missionary in the world, culture where you are looks down its nose at nobodies. Everybody is trying to be somebody. Jesus flipped the model on its head: treat yourself as a nobody and everyone you come in contact with as a somebody. Paul works this thinking out a little further by declaring that if you are in Christ, you are a somebody which should make it easier for you to be nobody. This is what righteousness looks like, it’s a wise way to live, and it gives everyone you’re trying to reach a working knowledge of how relating works. That’s what living in Christ looks like and that’s why living in Christ is attractive to those who don’t yet know Him.
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash