The first question is one that I get asked a lot; the second one isn't polite so I don't hear it so often. If I go to a conference people constantly assume that I have a fixed role, with an organisation. At this point in my life this is a question that stirs many emotions. I'm in a liminal period only gets a coherent response from anthropologists and readers of my blog! I used to answer, "as little as possible", which although true, was not something I succeeded in doing!
These two questions are linked but actually come the wrong way round. What I do is dependent upon who I am. In Western society we find our identity in what we do. Biblically, the order is reversed: who we are should lead to what we do. Our actions are based on our identity. Of course, it's not that simple because our actions also form who we are but the Bible starts with who we are.
In Colossians 3:12 Paul tells his readers that as believers they are three things: chosen, holy and loved. After that he gives the Colossians a list of massively challenging instructions, but those instructions are based upon the fact that they are chosen, holy and loved.
It is interesting to observe that none of these facts are based upon the Colossians themselves. They are all external and objective.
They are chosen by God. They are selected by God. It is almost as if God points his finger at us and says, "I choose you, and you, and you". The idea is that we are specially selected for a purpose. Our existence is not dependent on us, or our success or on other people's opinions of us; rather it is based upon God's selection.
We are also holy. We have been made holy. We have been set apart. Although this is closely related to the idea of election, it adds the element of distinction; of comparison. Being holy is being like God. Again this is external and objective. God has made it so. There is no room for boasting, only thanksgiving.
Finally we are loved. Paul uses a word with the root word "agape". It is such a strong word to use. God loves us. This gets to the heart of our election and holiness. They are due to God's infinite love upon us. Once again, not because we are lovely or attractive but because sets his love upon us.
What I do emerges from these facts: we are selected by God for his purposes, we are made holy by him so we reflect his character and he loves us with his infinite because...well because he IS love.
Thank you our father that you have chosen us--may we be worthy; that you have made us holy like you--may we reflect your character to the world; and that you love us--may we love others with that same intense love.