If I Cannot Teach God’s Word, I Must Die

The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) wrote in response to inquires from a young poet:

“You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems … I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel you and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading its roots in deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if you were denied to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to the necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.”

Good advice from a poet to those who write.

Yet I think it applies even more forcefully to those called by God to ministry. And by “ministry” I do not mean ministry in the sense that all believers are called to follow Jesus and promote reconciliation, the way of peace. No, in this context, I specifically mean those particularly called by the Triune God to apostolic vision, prophetic proclamation, declaration of the evangel, and/or being shepherds of the ecclesia and teachers of Holy Writ. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are not professional clergy elevated to a place of greater importance than others; conversely, they are called to serve under rather than lord over. That does not, however, negate the biblical fact that there are some set aside by the Holy Spirit for the four-fold ministry. 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Ephesians 4:11-12, NIV)

It is to the pastors, evangelists, biblical teachers, prophets, and apostolic visionaries of the Kingdom of God that Rilke’s poetic advice particularly applies. We need to go into ourselves – more pointedly and accurately, into the depths of God’s heart and life and ask whether we would have to die if we could not preach or teach. And if the answer is confirmed by the Holy Spirit in the affirmative, then it behooves us to build our lives according to that necessity, to assure that even in our most indifferent and slightest hours, our lives are a sign and testimony to God’s specific call. 

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!(1 Corinthians 9:16 ESV)

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on December 16, 2019, in anabaptist, Bible, Bible Teaching, Christianity, Jesus, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, Peace Shalom Hesed, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: