Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Christ and Our Callings, Part 1

I've invested ten of the past twelve years of my life into being a high school science teacher (five years of schooling plus five years of service).  In many ways, it's been wonderful.  Let's face it: how many people get to choose a career path, study for it, and then actually find continual employment in that exact role?  I have a stable job at a top-notch, innovative public high school, my students earn pretty good scores on the state benchmark tests, and I get to coach cross country as well.  On top of that, the pay is decent enough, the benefits are great, and I have a continuing contract.  Still, I often find myself looking out the window with a restless spirit, wondering what lies beyond being a science teacher.

For years now I've had a vision of serving the church in a country where sound theological education is needed, either where the church is small, dead, or has strayed from orthodoxy (e.g., Germany, France, Czech Republic), or in a nation where the evangelical church is young and persecuted (e.g., Turkey, North Africa).  I've never thought of this as a necessarily "higher" calling, but being able to devote myself to teaching God's Word just seems awesome.  After all, I already love studying the Bible and getting chances in the local church to lead studies and teaching.

But when I look at my passions and gifts and wonder about my "calling" in life, I find myself face-to-face with the question, "Who am I?"  It's really a question that shapes all our pursuits in life.

God's answer to the question of my calling is the same answer he gives to my identity: I am "called to belong to Jesus Christ" and I am among those "in Rome loved by God and called to be saints" (Romans 1:6, 7).  Now of course I'm not in Rome proper, but I have a city, a concrete location and context in which to live my life as a saint, that is, a justified sinner possessed by Jesus Christ.  It is this identity as one belonging to Jesus that shapes and defines the "calling" of all Christians.

After describing that as the Christ, Jesus was anointed for the roles of prophet, priest, and king, the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord's Day 12) reminds us that as Christians, we too belong to Christ and share in his anointing.  No matter what our station in life, we are called to be prophets who speak the truth of God's unchanging word, point out the vain and empty gods we hold dear, and show others the paths that reap God's blessing or his curses.  As priests we pray and intercede for others before God and we worship the Lord with thanksgiving and purity.  And as kings we fight against sin and unrighteousness, uphold justice, live wisely and righteously, and provide for and protect those under our care. 

Rather than seeking a job or a locale that allows me to maximally pursue my dreams or special desires and talents, living out my identity as a Christian means following Christ in his mission and living out his ways not in dreams of future potentialities, but in the concrete particulars of where I already live.  I can be a prophet, priest, and king to those around me today.  That reality doesn't hang upon my circumstances.  To view my job from this angle and to give myself more fully to this in any job, town, or relationship will make it more fulfilling, meaningful, and enjoyable than "pursuing my dreams"--because I will be living out who I really am as a member of Christ, and not who I think I should be.

This doesn't mean it's wrong to change jobs or stations in life.  In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 Paul told slaves to avail themselves of their freedom if they could.  But he also told them that their present circumstances were something to which God had "called" them, and that they were already free to live a whole life worshiping and enjoying God right where they were.  The primary calling that defined and shaped all their other callings was that they were "called into fellowship with [God's] Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1:9 NIV).  And so it is with us today.

No comments: