Everyone who watches any form of Star Trek knows you don’t want to be a red shirt.
An episode starts, some problem ensues, a mission develops, and some guy or gal steps onto the screen alongside the captain and first officer, ready to save the day, only one problem – they’re wearing a red shirt. Bummer for you, buddy … your lifespan is limited.
While there are exceptions to this Star Trek rule (like all of engineering), there is a consistency to it that all Star Trek fans secretly love. It’s kind of nice to know who’s expendable on an episode. On Star Trek, as in life, pretty much anything can happen, anywhere, at any time. I think it makes us feel a little more comfortable with the journey knowing one small, hidden secret written into the plotline. And the characters in the red shirts are great characters. They are useful. They serve their purpose to move the story forward. But in the end, they’re not really necessary for the story line to continue.
We are red shirts for the Gospel.
Now hear me out:
We desperately want to be necessary.
Until we become a parent and then we desperately just want five minutes in the bathroom by ourselves. Or we simply engage in the world enough to notice all the need, all the heartbreak, all the struggle around us, at all times. Necessary sounds well and good, but necessary is exhausting and too weighty and depressing.
We weren’t made to be necessary for the Gospel. We were made to be chosen.
Meet Philip. Philip was a follower of God, a proclaimer of God. Philip’s work felt so necessary. When we first meet Philip, the Bible tells us crowds of people paid attention to what Philip had to say, so rapt that they were like one person fixated on the message. And this message of Jesus that Philip shared created joy where he went.
Later in the same chapter, God tells Philip some vague directions about going to a road. Philip does, because that’s the kind of relationship he has with God. He’s a follower, so he does his part … follows. He knows God leads, even when the directions are vague and the road pretty desert-like.
Philip goes where he’s told and he meets an Ethiopian man of the queen’s court. Actually, he runs to meet him, which is in itself notable. What if we ran to meet people? What if we were so in tune to God’s love and desire to know people that we just had to get to them, ask them questions, and know them more? What if we were less necessary and they were more necessary?
Philip hears the Ethiopian reading Isaiah, he offers to explain it, the gentleman is baptized, and then … poof — Philip and his metaphorical red shirt disappear.
Unlike Star Trek though, the underlying theme of Scripture is massive, wild, vibrant Hope.
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
Philip was unnecessary. God used him anyway. Because Philip was unnecessary, what was left in the midst of his wake was not Philip-ness, but abundant, overflowing, incomprehensible Joy.
I want to leave Joy in my wake.
I want Jesus to be necessary.
… for every soul, every person in my path. In my chosen-ness rather than my necessary-ness, God becomes clearer and joy becomes brighter to the people around me.
In the end, Philip found himself somewhere else entirely than where he expected. God used him for a moment, just as He uses us in our moments, big and small. Philip wore his red shirt in another destination and another and another.
It’s almost as if that red shirt had resurrection written all over it.
Well, I suppose it did.
Thanking God today for Him who is necessary.
Thanking God today for you who are chosen.
Next Up - Video 3 drops on Sunday morning, A Bend in the Road
In the Meantime - Did you catch the Mental Health Monday Road Trip video for this week on change and transition? We’re getting out there and advocating for mental health to end the stigma. Check it out: