“…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
(1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)
My heart is with those of you winding down your summer and battening down the hatches for what will be the busiest fall you’ve ever experienced. At least I’m pretty sure it will be, just as it has been every year in recorded history. There is one Biblical concept that unites those items on your calendar and allows us to attack them with a sense of confidence and rest: vocation. Christianity does not recognize any sort of action that does not begin and end with God’s voice. Go. That is what vocation means, to be called. We are called out from one thing to the next and from one way of being to the next. Of course we have done a fine job of imagining that the interior life, particularly the religious interior life, is where God speaks and where God calls. Pray better, that voice says. Be kind where possible. Stop watching that or saying that or at least stop letting people know that you do. If there’s a benefit to this sort of compartmentalization, it is that we are less troubled by our conscience in all of those places we have taped off from religious intrusion. And we are free to engage those things with only our satisfaction as the highest end. We do what is right in our own eyes. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on that way of living; sometimes it may feel more productive to just put our head down and go to work without troubling ourselves with religious thinking.
But the downside is significant. The downside happens when you are looking out toward a new school year and you feel the calendar already laughing. The downside happens when you recognize that your most profitable years in the workforce are slipping by and your retirement account is a joke. Or when children or marriage or friendship does not happen the way you had always hoped. This is when the interior Christian life feels too small, way too compartmentalized.
Tthe Bible insists that there is no place where God does not extend his call to human beings. God extends his call to live differently into every place where you may go. He calls you to be his person in your home, among your children if you have them. He extends his call into your marriage or into your friendships with neighbors and coworkers. Into all of these places he extends his call to you to live like a Christian. This is your vocation and it does not end where the typical boundaries lie. It does not end where inconvenience makes life difficult. God’s call does not end where there is opposition to the gospel. If he did you would never have been saved! Vocation does not end where living is difficult. In fact this may be where we finally begin to understand what it really means to be called. In all of those places God claims to have a call upon your life.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10 ESV)
Vocation also means that wherever God calls us, there his grace extends too. It makes his world out of ours. It grants us a sense of perspective and casts away fear. We are never on the periphery of God’s care. We are never alone. Our mess, the mess we see right in front of us, is God’s mess. There is no dividing line between your personal disaster and God’s holy ground. There is no line between your duty to follow Jesus at home as at work. And there is no line limiting your comfort either, or the courage you have as a result of God’s presence in all of those places.
The outcome, then, of the person that lives vocationally is God-honoring activity in every place, God-honoring trust in His care and his purposes, God-honoring forgiveness when we get it wrong, God-honoring mercy for the people we encounter and God-honoring desperate prayer when we recognize that these messes, so much a part of God’s world, can only flourish in his hands. And when we have done this, when we have begun to live in every place with this Christian vocation, we will find his great care extending out to us and producing perseverance and hope through every last bail of laundry, every fierce deadline, and every mocking laugh of your schedule and the tick of the clock. Now let’s go to work. ~JK