This summer, I got to travel overseas for a week. Three instances stand out. I ran on an 1800 year-old road. I went down into the basement of a 300 year-old church to tour a home from 50AD. A friar led my family beyond the gates and into a catacomb to see the skull and femur from a 3rd century Christian they’d nicknamed Otto. While visiting these three sites I came to realize something extremely humbling: we are insignificant.
We spend so much of our lives trying to become significant. We want to make a name for ourselves. But once tragedy strikes we realize the truth. To the vast majority of the world, we are insignificant.
Beyond our family, and maybe twenty other people…no one cares about you. For those who have experienced tremendous loss and grief, that stark reality confronts them. The world keeps moving. Even though you may have just left the hospice room saying good-bye to your parent, the man behind you will honk at you if you hesitate at the stoplight. Even though your parents may have just sat you down and told you that they were getting divorced, the college application is still due. Even though you may have been diagnosed with cancer, the mortgage check better be mailed on time.
The strange thing is that even to God you are insignificant. God does not need you. God’s master plan to redeem all of history, to remove sin and death from the world, to bring His kingdom on earth, does not require your efforts at all. Unfortunately our American church is teaching the opposite and feeding our narcissism. Rather than helping us see our insignificance we give out t-shirts to the V.I.P “guests,” with special parking spots, and volunteer opportunities that make them feel necessary to God’s master plan. Pastors especially can be drawn to this narcissistic attitude that we are essential to the church (But that’s a soapbox for another time). God does not need our money, or our worship attendance, or our volunteer hours.
I once was asked a profound question, “If God is so great, why does He need me to praise Him?”
The humbling truth of the good news is that God doesn’t need you…but He wants you.
Once we discover the truth of our insignificance, we are then able to fully feel the truth of our significance. To God you are significant, not because He needs you, but because He wants you. Your pain, shame and disappointments may be hidden from the person behind you in traffic, but Jesus knows. Crying over the news that a friend has died, Jesus wept over the death of His friend Lazarus and He weeps with you. The loneliness, the abandonment you feel, Jesus knows. Ever wondered “where were you God when I needed you?” Well, Jesus wondered that too while on the cross.
Jesus knows these things because He went to the edges of the earth in order to find all of us insignificant souls. While the rest of the world may show us how insignificant we are, Jesus Christ shows us how significant we are to Him. He went into the depths of hell, into the pits of loneliness, into the broken areas of our lives, into every nook and cranny to show us that the love of God is not based on His need for us, but His deep desire for us.
To God you are significant.
So much so that Jesus considered equality with God not something to hang on to, but emptied himself. He, himself, became insignificant; he humbled himself; he humiliated himself to the point of death for you. He gave it all up, for you.
When we discover our insignificant significance to God, we discover that faith is not a have-to but a get-to. We get-to gather in worship to proclaim his love, we get-to give our money to a mission to redeem all of human history, we get-to love and serve and live for Him, because He first loved us, the insignificantly significant.