The question of purpose is the topic of many books – some better then others. This is an important question and we want answers. A lot depends on getting it right – or so we think.
Where should I live? What college should I attend? What should I study? Which job should I take (although in today’s economy, many would be happy to find any job). Which church should I attend? How and where should I serve God? What are my gifts and talents? These are all important questions that cause us to search, seek and pray.
When we ask these questions we often end up seeking improvement in our lives and qualities. These self-help pursuits can serve as a healthy means of growth and finding answers to the purpose question.
It is good to ask such questions and seek for answers. However, these questions may also distract us from doing/fulfilling what we already know to be important. We can get so caught up in these big questions that we loose sight of what is right before our eyes, what is right in our grasp to fulfill.
St. Paul provided valuable insight into our purpose. Insight into what we are to do. That is: “love our neighbor as our self.” (Galatians 5: 14) Jesus also instructed his hearers to love God with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as their self.
Short phrases, simple language; but a difficult concept. So difficult that it is easier to distract ourselves with lofty questions.
Who are these neighbors we are suppose to love as ourselves? Our neighbors are more then those who live on our street. They are our coworkers, employer, boss, cashier, sales reps, people we do not like, etc. In short, everyone we come in contact with and more.
How do we know if we are loving our neighbor as ourselves? This is something that each must answer in their own heart. I have no desire to sit in judgment over another and proclaim, “They are not loving their neighbor!” For in doing so I would be condemning myself.
Consider the neighbor who has the continually barking dog, loud music, or some other near perpetual annoyance. Does loving your neighbor mean you tolerate the annoyance? I think not. Avoiding issues is not necessarily love. How we address the issue demonstrates the love. In fact, avoidance often leads to more intense future conflict.
Opportunities in our daily life abound to demonstrate this concept. Our spouse, children, employer, costumers, etc. provide numerous sources that test our maturity as followers of Christ. Simply dismissing annoyances or offense my be an appropriate demonstration of love; but it may also be a hindrance to relationships and growth.
It takes a deep maturity to lovingly confront and deal with people and their issues. Common responses to adversity in relationships is to lash back or withdraw. Lashing back my have its immediate results or consequences. Withdrawing with out resolving may lead to a built up resentment and future outbursts – maybe even lashing out at a different person then the original conflict.
Consider how we, as Christians, treat one another in our Church life. We sometimes divide, devour and destroy one another in the name of all that is good and true. It is of little wonder why many no longer participate in the life of the Church. Our Lord said, “They will know you are my disciples by the love you have one for another.” (John 13: 35)
Whatever your gifts, calling or special purpose may be it begins with loving your neighbor as yourself. We can go to the ends of the earth and attempt great feats for God; but if we cannot grow in loving our neighbor as ourselves then our professed love for God is of little avail. If we start with a diligent attempt to learn what it means to love your neighbor as yourself; then we may find that particulars of purpose fall into place.