I still haven’t ever read Calvin’s Institutes. At this point, it’s almost a badge of honor – I can say I learned my Calvinism from the Bible, not John Calvin! I had hoped to read it over the summer, but then I was hit by a good dose of realism. This is, however, the summer of Calvin’s 500th birthday (actually, Calvin and I share a birthday, July 10th. I guess it was preordained that I’d be a Calvinist!), so I did pick up a short bio of Calvin by Robert Godfrey, Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor.
When we think of Calvin we often think a theologian, an author, one of the leaders of a movement we call the Reformation. Some might add heretic to that list, others might want hero instead. How did Calvin see himself? As a pastor. Here’s a quote from the preface that explains a little of Calvin’s heart:
“Calvin saw the importance of his life as a pastor in his own day and did not focus on his influence in years to come. When his friend William Farel [who coerced him into staying and pastoring in Geneva by threatening him with curses] urged him to publish his study of Genesis, he replied, ‘As to my observations on Genesis, if the Lord shall grant me longer life and leisure, perhaps I will set myself about that work, although I do not expect to have many hearers. This is my especial end and aim, to serve my generation; and for the rest, if, in my present calling, an occasional opportunity offers itself, I shall endeavor to improve it for those who come after us. I have a mind to set about writing several things, but as my wife is not in ill health, not without danger, my attention is otherwise engaged.”
I love this portrait of Calvin – not overestimating his importance (which is so easy to do). He wasn’t aiming to be a great man that would be remembered by history, but aimed at being faithful to his calling as a pastor and a husband. If opportunities presented themselves, he’d take them for the good of kingdom, but he wasn’t seeking them in a self serving manner.
Its so easy to get sucked into thinking incessantly about our legacy (at least it’s easy for the guys I talk to. I suspect it is for the women out there also). We want to be remembered, to be a part of a great movement, to do something historic. Praise God if we do, but praise him still if we don’t. If we are faithful in what God has given us, praise him for the opportunity and the grace needed for that.