Nobel Prize-winner Enrico Fermi was having lunch with a group of colleagues in 1950. As they discussed a spate of recent UFO sightings, Fermi suddenly asked, “Where is everybody?” Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester, recently restated the question, now known as “Fermi’s paradox”: “If the universe was teeming with intelligent technological civilizations, why hadn’t they already made it to Earth? Indeed, why hadn’t they made it everywhere?”
Frank suggests some options: perhaps they don’t want to come here, or interstellar travel is simply impossible. Here’s one he doesn’t discuss: we are here by the creative power and purpose of God.
Including you. God didn’t make you because a planet with 7.3 billion inhabitants needed another human being. He made you because he has a unique purpose for your life, a calling only you can fulfill.
But there’s a problem, one I call the “misplaced comma.”
The King James Version (KJV) is a marvelous work of literature. One scholar calls it “the ultimate standard of English prose style.” An editor published a 200 page book listing all the memorable sayings from the translation. More than five billion copies have been sold.
I have enormous respect for the King James Version. But there is a mark of punctuation in this famous translation that I wish had never been inserted. My “life text,” the passage that frames and motivates my work more than any other, is Ephesians 4:11-12. Here we read in the KJV: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Clearly, God called apostles, prophets, evangelists, and “pastors and teachers” (or “pastor-teachers”). To what end? According to verse 12 in the KJV, we have three jobs: “the perfecting of the saints” (teaching and maturing believers), “the work of the ministry” (evangelism, pastoral care, leadership, etc.), and “the edifying of the body of Christ” (building the church).
Are these not the three criteria by which most of us evaluate pastors and other vocational ministers? We ask if they “fed” us spiritually, if they did the work of ministry, and if they grew the church. Across the 25 years I was a pastor, these were the consistent ways I was measured.
However, the first comma in verse 12 was inserted by KJV translators, and is not part of the Greek original. With it in place, Christian leaders are to work “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” With it removed, they are to work “for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry.”
See the difference?
Every Christian is called to ministry. Every believer has spiritual gifts and a spiritual assignment. Mark Twain claimed, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
I don’t think God made aliens, but I know God made you. Do you know why you’re here?