Who is the most important person in the Bible? Jesus, of course. Now—make a list of the other really important people in the story the Bible tells. I bet you won’t get too deep before you name David and Paul.
Here’s an interesting fact about all three: It is explicitly noted in scripture that they all lacked qualities which made people pick them out as important or impressive.
Of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah said:
He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.
When the Prophet Samuel was sent to anoint a king from Jesse’s sons, he assumed it would be the oldest:
So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before Him. But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees…”
The one God wanted, David, was not even considered worth being considered. His father left him out of the meeting when he called his sons to see who would be chosen.
And when the Corinthian church thought of Paul, who had founded their community and written scripture for them, the best they could say was, “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”
David, the future king—too young, not really part of the conversation. Paul the missionary—nice letters, but really, in person, not too impressive. Jesus himself—nothing really to make him stand out. But all three, the exact kind of people of people God wanted to use, and did use—in big ways.
I’ve been thinking about these stories lately, because they have so much to speak to our age—with all its obsession over image, success, and standing out from the crowd. One of the sicknesses distinctive to our culture is the desire to be special. Something inside of us knows that there are a few people out there who are actually impressive—you know, the Ceasars and Da Vincis of the world and all that—and that knowledge has a way of making us think that that kind of exceptionality or notoriety is the measure of human worth. To really matter, you’ve got to be something, and probably, you’ve got to be something that sets you apart from the crowd.
Our culture has made it into a mantra for children. Is there anyone left that knows how to make a message for kids that isn’t some version of “you’re unique and special and have all kinds of qualities that make you part of the 1%”? And social media hasn’t helped this little nagging voice we all have to fight with. I’d say it’s only amplified it and made it worse. Now, everyone can curate an image of themselves and show the world that, they too are special—they are beautiful and creative and unique.
Of course, almost none of us are actually distinctly any of those things. Only 1% of people are in the 1%. Which means there’s a 99% chance that nothing about me sets me apart from humanity in these specific ways we’re all so enamored with. Of course—I am distinctive, because God makes us all unique. But that’s God’s truth, not Disney’s. We can’t read the beauty and power of our uniqueness through Disney’s lens. We’ll misunderstand it, and weight everything incorrectly. Why? Because the uniqueness the world worships (which currently is almost all physical beauty, artistic ability, or athletic ability) has almost nothing to do with the kinds of things God cares about. For instance, the world thinks of uniqueness as something to set you apart from everyone else. It only sees value in separation and isolation. Stand apart, so that people can gaze at you, and that’s how you’ll find your fulfillment. But if you know your bible, you immediately see the flaw in that kind of thinking. Human fulfillment is not found in isolation and having many eyes pointed at us. Those things are called death and idolatry.
Human fulfillment is found in connection and inclusion—connection to God, and inclusion in the body of Christ. Connection to God doesn’t set you apart, it brings you together with Him. And inclusion in the body of Christ doesn’t make you a singular thing to be seen, it makes you part of something bigger than yourself, where Jesus is center-stage. It’s within the reality of the body of Christ that uniqueness is a powerful, useful, God-honoring reality. Just read 1 Corinthians 12 to see how it all works—everyone has a unique role to play in the big family God is growing. But this goes so far beyond acting ability or a jump shot or a photogenic smile that it boggles the mind.
Those things are very, very small. The plan of God we’re called to play a role in is very big.
And our modern culture has no way of capturing the things related to God’s plan. In fact, it is totally uninterested in those things. They don’t photograph well (or at all). They don’t get clicks. They don’t typically make money. They ignore and transcend the things the world cares so much about—the money and looks and grappling for power.
So what about us?
God has called us to follow in the way of Christ. We can expect to be more like David and Paul than Kim and Kanye. We can live free of the burden of trying to make an image. We can stop worrying if we’re beautiful. It doesn’t matter at all. We can waste no more effort trying to push ourselves forward or get noticed. God sees us. He’ll makes sure anyone who needs to know us takes notice. We can step off the exhausting highway of self-promotion, and onto paths of peace and walking with Jesus.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, and you struggle feeling unimportant, or unspecial, take a deep breath, and relax into the love and eternal plan of God. Put the devices away (they drive these feelings of inadequacy) and spend time drinking in God’s words.
God doesn’t need you to make yourself anything. He made you. Trusting in the blood of Christ, and finding forgiveness of sins, you have his love.
He has his place for you, and it’s full, connected, and eternal.