30th January 2023

Whether it’s Abram being told by God to leave home and set off for a new, unspecified land, or Isaiah finding himself responding to that cunningly loaded question – ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ – or the fishermen hearing Jesus’ words, ‘Follow me’, we tend to read those accounts as examples of divine call and answering obedience. That is indeed what they are, of course, but surely there’s another important aspect to this, for God’s call upon our lives in all its various forms is also always invitation.

One of the great Old Testament texts is Micah 6: 8 – ’He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ Here God invites his people to a way of living together and before him that would be for everyone’s good – and not a ‘thou shalt not’ to be seen! (Let me swiftly add that even strongly worded prohibitions can also be taken as invitations, invitations to avoid harmful and destructive ways!)

Calls to service of God and neighbour, to action for the general good of society, to personal sacrifice, to commitment, to choose more truthful and Christ-like ways in our relationships with loved ones, friends or strangers, these are all invitations to live by the values of the Kingdom as seen in Jesus. We aren’t robots, pre-programmed always to do our duty, but children of God invited to flourish in the liberty of the Gospel. Any obedience flows from our responding ‘yes, please’.

Ken Stewart