I wonder how many times ‘relevant’ is referenced in the Bible?
Curiosity bit and I was helpless but to find the answer. So off I went. Digging. Seeking. Wondering later just why that question had managed to hook me so.
Because it’s zero.
A big, whopping, culture-affecting zero.
Relevant is an adjective we use to describe that “thing” making waves in our contemporary culture. If it’s a person, he/she may be fostering change in an industry. Or making a memorable impact with breadth and depth that demands notice. Or, perhaps they’re on the front-lines of a conversation we’ve needed to dive into for some time. These folks are the game-shakers. The wave-makers. The history-writers and mentors we listen to from afar, glean wisdom from, and in many ways (for writers and speakers and Jesus-followers alike)— we look up to.
Relevant is the word that came to mind when a friend once sighed through her writing rejection, saying:
“I could never write like her.”
The her mentioned was one of those relevant voices.
I too had read the author’s work and listened to her passion for Jesus spoken from the stage, in videos and podcasts, and came away with inspiration. If there ever was a definition for someone making ripples across God’s global pond, it was that author. And to my friend, if the ripples of her writing dreams didn’t reach as far, roll as long, or gain similar notice, then she was falling short.
She was failing.
Worse? She was irrelevant. To make up for it, she’d redefined service as relevant.
Saving souls? Relevant.
Books? Bible studies? Teaching? Relevant. Relevant. More relevant.
Ministries and Jesus-seeking? Instead of what it might have been (because we don’t know that author’s heart!)… we’d stripped-down the prayers, and walk, and words, and passion, and preaching, and worship, and calling, and that author’s HEART to simply (and sadly)—relevant.
Our voice cannot be defined by a word that isn’t found in THE Word.
Comparison is a pit.
The monster of it will yank us down and keep us captive with muddy side-walls that no shoe can scale. It closes doors. Shreds impact. Attaches adjectives instead of highlighting hearts. And its toxic talk weighs down the owner like few things can. Because if relevance is a lie, then comparison is its twin brother.
Don’t worry. I didn’t leave that friend in the pit. I couldn’t. I’d already taken her words into my heart and understood them more than she knew.
I had scars left by comparison. They’d cut deep. For years. Since my own childhood. And I too understood the rejection my friend was feeling. That wasn’t new to me. It’s raw, and real, and embarrassing to look that comparison monster in the mirror, but we have to if we want to taste freedom. Because I guarantee that author we were looking up to had zero idea we’d labeled her as relevant.
… she was probably just in love with Jesus and was doing everything for Him.
We see the large stone dropped in the pond, making a rolling wave in front of us. But what we don’t see— what God weaves in an ocean of impact and service and pure-heart motivations— is often a tiny, smoothed stone.
Skipping far out on the water.
Traveling farther and faster and dropping down under the surface where only He can see the majesty of the spiritual waves circling out. And we might not ever see those ripples on this earth. So the question shouldn’t be whether relevant is found in the Bible. The real real question should be—what is?
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…”
—Titus 3:5 (NIV)
I’d argue that the Stone-Maker isn’t interested in relevant; He didn’t give that word a syllable in the Bible. What He did give was a stone (and words) for how often these ripples are seen instead:
- Merciful (19); Mercy (131)
- Sanctified (10)
- Sacrificed (71)
- Worthy (49)
- Beautiful (69)
- Bought (47)
- Beloved (32)
- Heirs (11)
- Love (574); Loved (93)
- Forgiven (46)
- And debtors whose pail of stones has already been bought and paid for. (2)
What size, and shape, and smoothness are our stones? Because those things will determine how far they skip. And why are we even standing on the shore to cast them if we’re looking at the impact of someone else’s stone-skipping instead?
I admitted to my friend that I too had struggled with watching as others tossed their stones out on the water. It wasn’t fair to that “relevant” voice who was out there, innocently skipping stones on the surface of the deep, making a Jesus-impact on her world only because she loved Him. And wanted to serve Him. And wasn’t afraid to take steps out with her Father— because she only cared that He is watching and not the rest of us.
It’s real to say that we can have our own stones that have nothing to do with us and everything to do with Jesus. I’d love nothing more than to gather at the shore. To look out at the span of the deep. Toss. Skip. Watch the ripples only because we love Him… and not the label of relevance the waves might bring.