noun, rai·son d’ê·tre
reason or justification for being or existence
Are there any people in the world worse than Christians for losing sight of their raison d’être?
Consider the prime ministers, the sportsmen, the entrepreneurs. They all have a raison d’être and the greatest give it their all to achieve it. In their biographies they tell of hours spent on the training ground when others have gone home. They talk about family time they missed, about money invested, sleep lost, and holidays abandoned, all for the sake of their raison d’être.
And then, having arrived they are not satisfied. Because politics or sport or invention is their reason for being, they do everything they can to stay number one. Terrified of the next big thing they cling on, obsessing not only about their position but also their legacy.
Even so, the Blair’s, Beckhams and Bezos’ of this world are nothing compared to a Christian.
Not all Christians of course. Only some. Maybe in your experience it’s Sally the Sunday school teacher, or Freddie the Food Bank Manager, or Mike the Minister. But what damage they do as they cling to power. How many church meetings have been ruined, families damaged, ministries stunted and fellowships split by Christian’s whose little kingdom has become their raison d’être?
In the bible the classic example of a man defined by his ministry is Jesus cousin. Who could be more synonymous with his ministry than John the Baptist?
In each of the synoptic gospels John is the first man we really hear from. He is commended by Jesus as the greatest in the kingdom; he is feared by the powerful and adored by the poor. Thousands travel miles to hear him speak and hundreds respond to his message with life changing decisions.
However in John’s gospel we see that by chapter 3 he is no longer the main man. As his supporters point out, the new man Jesus is attracting bigger crowds and his disciples are doing more baptisms. What, they imply, is a Baptist with no-one to baptise?
The nature of John’s response has had an incredibly profound impact on generations of people right up to this day: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30).
How does he do it? How does he go beyond a pious sounding aphorism to really mean ‘may Jesus increase even as I decrease?’
To find the answer to that question we must consider the parable he tells his followers in verse 29,
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
In John’s mind it is not duty, it is his delight. His ministry is and always has been to show people their sin and show people their saviour.
This is really hard. You don’t need to be a megalomaniac or a control freak to feel inadequate when someone greater (or merely new) comes into your little kingdom. It’s frustrating when the flavour of the month suggests something you’ve been saying for years. It’s humbling when the new leader is clearly more able than you.
But we can learn so much from John. He is happy to live under a sovereign God (v27), serving at the pleasure of the Lord and stepping back at the right and proper time.
Moreover he never doubts his calling. Other’s might have called him John the Baptist but he is clear: “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him. (V28).
Do you see how we’ve had his name wrong all these years? Baptising never was his raison d’être. He was John the Signpost, there to point people to the saviour. And, like a series of motorway mileage signs, once you can see Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, you no longer need to be looking out for the signposts saying London 6 miles.
So. Why is he signposting to Jesus? Because Jesus is the groom. He loves, no, he adores his bride. She is the apple of his eye. It goes to show how much John loves people that he delights to see them come to Jesus. Why does he want to decrease? So that Jesus may increase. Why does he want Jesus to increase? So that joy may increase.
If you are struggling for raison d’être in 2022 why not start here praying
“May my reason for being that I become ‘Jones the Signpost’ — leading people to Jesus that their joy may increase.”