Someone once asked a desert monk, Abba Anthony, “What must one do to please God?” The first two parts of his response were expected: First, always be aware of God’s presence, and second, obey God’s Word. But the third caught people off guard: “Wherever you find yourself – do not easily leave.” Jim Elliott, who died for the cause of Christ while reaching a remote tribe in Ecuador for Christ in 1956, famously said: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Staying put, remaining as you are, not leaving easily, being fully present wherever you are present are good general rules for the Christian. The Christian is not to be a day dreamer but one who is wholly committed to what is in front of him. The Christian is not an escape artist trying to jiggle or wriggle free from routine faithfulness or common commitments, rather a man or woman abiding in Christ who blooms where he or she is planted.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul reminds these new converts to Christianity that while Christ effects a radical change from the inside out, many things about their lives remain unchanged. Christ does not call His disciples to leave their jobs, abandon their families, or retreat from society. For the most part, when Christ calls a man or woman to follow Him, He calls them to live as a Christian where they were when they answered the call to follow Christ. Three times in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, Paul encourages the believers in Corinth to remain and continue to live within the context of their pre-conversion relationships and responsibilities (1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24). The Christian life is compatible with life, the Christian life does not require a monastery. So long as it is moral and lawful, a Christian’s present situation is God’s will for them presently. According to the great Apostle, wherever the Corinthians found themselves, they were to remain, and not leave easily. This is a general rule, although not an absolute rule (1 Cor. 7:21).
This persistent call to remain is a word of caution! While not an absolute prohibition on change, it is a warning against needless and heedless change. It is a call to fight the urge to jump ship for another port. It is a call to bloom where you are planted. Unlike the surrounding culture, the Christian’s happiness is not determined by a change of location, or job, or spouse (Phil. 4:4-7; 1 Cor.7:13).
Again, this persistent call to remain is a word of clarification! Spirituality is not a matter of where one is, or what one does, but who one is in Christ. Walking worthy of the Lord is compatible with any legitimate social relation or position (Eph. 4-6). You do not need to be a pastor or evangelist to prove your spiritual bona fides. The seventh chapter of First Corinthians reminds us there is no hierarchy of calling or vocation. Paul wants to stick a fork in the notion that nothing prior to Christ, and nothing outside of religion, has any value (1 Cor. 10:31).
We can be Christians anywhere, so let us stay put and bloom where we are planted – until obedience to God’s clear will uproots us!