Thursday, October 1, 2009

Theology Plus: Vocations of Grace

Two nights ago I was sitting next to my wife's bedside at a local hospital as she writhed in agony, laboring to give birth to our first child. Things were not progressing as quickly as we had hoped and I had called our doctor in to talk with us about what we should be expecting.

Jenny and I had agreed that we wanted our labor and delivery to be about glorifying God and, in the process, being a witness for his grace to our doctors, nurses, aides, and any visitors we might have. We were careful in what music we would play during labor; we brought our bibles and our hymnal; and we prayed a lot. If nothing else, we wanted to bring this baby into the world in prayer and thanksgiving, remembering that this child was the answer to years of petition and desire.

Our doctor was talking with us when she was suddenly and visibly distracted. Caedmon's Call's We Give Thanks was playing on our ipod speakers. "We give thanks to you, oh God, for you have brought us here. You chose this time, you chose this place; you chose these people to show your grace. . ." She continued talking, but with a sort of puzzled look on her face. I had never asked if she was a Christian, and I didn't in that moment (as my beautiful wife was having another contraction). Our doctor already knew I was a seminary student, but in that moment there was a brief connection - a realization that there was more to this birth than merely bringing another human baby into the world. This was God's grace displayed to his own and radiating from them to the world.

As I was reading a missionary biography for a class this morning, Sam James's Servant on the Edge of History, I was struck how the author had, at one point, desired to leave the mission field in order to become a surgeon, so that he could return and care for the sick of Vietnam in the name of Jesus. He realized, however, that his was a different calling, to equip ministers there to support their own people spiritually as the communists were taking over the nation.

We who are called by the name of Jesus Christ, Christ-ians, are called to so much more than just worship services on Sunday mornings. We are called to serve fellow people as priests and prophets; to stand for and deliver the Gospel to all of fallen humanity in specific capacities. Those capacities are our "callings" or vocations. Some of us are called to the pastorate, some to the mission fields, but some of us are called to become lawyers, doctors, architects, scientists, archaeologists, nurses, politicians, mechanics, laborers, etc. Each Christian should be well educated in their faith (Christian college or even seminary is incredibly helpful), but many should take the next step and be educated in other areas, where they feel called or well suited. What a difference there would be in our nation if there were more believing Christians in politics or the judiciary, or in medicine.

There are several problems that face us Christians in selecting education. Most colleges and universities have become bastions of secularism, occasional professors even requiring assent to their views to in order to pass classes. Many "Christian" schools have compromised on core beliefs and commitments, which have opened them up to secularism or heresy in many forms. Further, many schools that have maintained their commitment to solid theological education, are not requiring (or in some cases, even offering) classes that equip young Christians for anything except the ministry or missions.

Our world is changing. We need Christians in every facet of life, shedding the light of Christ in places where the gloom of sinful darkness has been gathering. We need more doctors who minister to their patients in the name of Jesus, more public school teachers willing to push back against recent secular mandates, more lawyers and judges who are concerned not with winning cases or gaining recognition, but with applying Christ's justice in an unjust world.

Young Christian: figure out your calling. Don't figure that you must become a pastor or a missionary just because you are a Christian (also, don't think because you stay close to home that you are not doing missions). Still, pursue some sort of theological education from sound, evangelical sources. Your commitment to the Gospel in the world is only as strong as your theological worldview. If your worldview is weak, so will your faith be. Then, with your commitment to Christ firm and your calling sure, pursue education to fulfill that calling. If you feel called to study ancient Peruvian native cultures, do so in the name of, and for the glory of, Jesus Christ. If you feel called into the military, to fight for your country, fight well as a soldier of your nation and as a soldier of your God. Make sure your actions at the battlefront demonstrate your firm commitment to Christ and biblical instruction.

Vocation is calling; a calling from God, through the Holy Spirit's urging, to work out the Gospel within this fallen world in a particular way. You are salt, you are light. Go and live faithfully for your God, praising him in light of his constant faithfulness through salvation and blessing.

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