A rock hound who could speak for hours on variations of gems. A car enthusiast who knows the intricate details of a particular make and model. A botanist who knows the subtle differences among species of the same genus. An historian who has spent his or her life in a concentrated study on a condensed time period or people group.
Whenever I speak to a specialists of any kind, I always walk away with wonder: wonder that God wired someone to find such a nuanced, committed interest to one particular cause or subject or trade.
Whether its a particular genus of plants, a condensed part of history, or a car type, I am blown away that someone could expend so much energy and focus so much attention on what seems, in the grand scheme of things, such a narrow subject.
Specialists sometimes come across as eccentric, as few can understand such a sustained passion towards such a singular subject. True specialists sometimes struggle to understand how others could live uninterested and unmoved by the subject of study which has so captured their imagination and affection.
As Tom Nichols expertly explains in his book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, expertise is a dying art. As I am generally a generalist myself, I will leave the expertise on expertise to him; however, it struck me this morning that all believers are called to at least one object of expertise.
The Call for Spiritual Specialists
Everyone who has been saved by the good news of the gospel and captured by His irresistible grace is invited to become an expert on Christ. The lyrics to the song “One Pure and Holy Passion” perfectly capture this call.
“Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You.
To know and follow hard after You
To grow as your disciple in the truth
The world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing You, my Lord,
Lead me on and I will run after You
Lead me on and I will run after You.”
The Apostle Paul was a renaissance man before the term existed. He seemed to excel in all that he did, as he so clearly shares in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 3:3-11) and in his defense before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-11). However, after his encounter on the road to Damascus, he became a specialist in Christ. From an outsider’s opinion, Paul’s life suddenly looked obsessive and off-kilter. His focus narrowed dramatically to the One who narrowed Himself from the expanses of eternity to a human body on our account.
Whereas he used to be celebrated in many Jewish circles, he began to be judged as myopic. As he told the church in Corinth, if the resurrection were not true, he would be of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
The Hazards of Specialization
While we are not uniquely called as an Apostle in the same manner as Paul, all who trust in and believe upon Christ are called to see Him and the gospel as supremely worthy of study, wonder, and worship. As J.I. Packer wrote in Knowing God, “The more complex the object, the more complex is the knowing of it.”
Our Christ is supremely complex and marvelously multi-faceted. For all eternity, we will explore Him and expand in our knowledge and worship of Him. We will never come to the edge of understanding him or the precipice of knowing His purposes.
As with all specialists, we will likely be labeled imbalanced and obsessive. We will be written off as narrow-minded in a culture that prides itself on being broad-minded. People will likely roll their eyes in a there-they-go-again attitude when we speak of our central love for Christ. People may tire of hearing about our love for Christ, but we ought never tire of worshipping and studying Him.
He is worthy of our wonder. He is infinitely complex. To know Him is to have life and life abundant.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).