Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vocation (Part II) - What Scripture Says

So, last week I wrote about my initial research on the topic of vocation, which mostly had to do with the historical development and changes in how the church viewed vocation.

After looking at some of what people have said through church history, I looked at scripture. Some of this is going to seem like proof-texting - pulling random scripture out without any context. Well, I did look at context, I was just trying to find places where believers are given direction about how to live their daily lives or what they may be called to do with their lives. I've given some examples and if you care, you'll have to look further at the context yourself, because there's only so much room to write here!

One thing I can't get away from is that it is very clear that some people are given very clear, very specific callings about what to do with their lives. Be it Moses or Mary or John the Baptist or Jeremiah, scripture is filled with people who are directly called. There may be people that are still directly called.

But you know, though some people are directly called in scripture, think of the hundreds of years of Jewish history that passes in scripture with only a handful given a direct calling. What of the rest of God's people? Does it matter what they do? What about those of us today who aren't given clear direction?

Well, here's one thing that the Reformers emphasized. We all have a common calling that drives our lives.

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" John 15:16

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel" Phil 1: 27
So I guess I see a clear calling TO God, to the gospel, and then to go out and bear fruit and proclaim the glory of the Lord. I kept looking to see if there was more clear instruction about actually how to live life as a follower of God.

Col. 3:18-24 was interesting to think about, because it speaks to wives, husbands, children, fathers, and slaves, and gives them each directions about how to act within their station in life. I see in it the charge to identify where you are at in life and then think how to live out your faith within it. This also brings out something the Reformers emphasized - part of our vocation has to do with our relationships. Part of my calling and vocation in life is that I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Since this is where I am in life, I am called to be those things to the glory of God. This is just as important as the "career" part of my vocation.

1 Thess. 4: 9-12 "Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you...But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one

I find this that verse in Thess. interesting because it's so different then the celebrity culture we have in the US. It sort of deemphasizes becoming famous and using your influence - not that that's a bad thing, but this verse honors a simple, hard-working life. It brings up the values of small-town America. I guess for me it gives value to what some of us may look down on as meaningless office jobs. Perhaps these can fall under the category of "living quietly and working with your own hands"?

Then there's the discussions in 1 Cor. 12 and other places of the gifts God gives to each of us. How does that play into vocation and calling? Clearly the gifts we are given are meant to be used to serve the church and glorify God, so in that if I identify what I'm gifted at, those things should be used in my life, and perhaps it may play in to what I do as a career or perhaps not.

And of course, 1 Cor. 10: 31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

I guess I'll close up with a quote that struck me from my favorite author of everyone I read on the subject, professor Douglass Schuermann in his book “Vocation.”

Until they read and reflect on the doctrine of vocation, very few of my students feel that they have a calling. Many of them have never thought about their lives in light of vocation. Those who have thought about it usually see being called as a rare, extraordinary, miraculous event in which God tells a person to enter a specific career path. The career path they envision usually is a church-related one: God calls a few exceptional individuals to become pastors, missionaries, priests, monks, or nuns. When they do not have a church-related career path in mind, they usually associate having a calling with an especially fulfilling, often service-oriented career. Those who think of vocation in this way typically fear they will miss their one chance to “discover” their calling.

Students are surprised when they learn that, in their classic Protestant form, vocation and calling do not begin their relevance when it’s time to select a career. Rather, God calls each student to be in school to contribute to the life of its community and to make opportunities it supplies for building lives of worth and service. God not only calls people into a given form of paid work; family relations, friendships, extracurricular commitments - indeed, all significant social relations are places into which God calls us to serve God and neighbor.
Read more: Part III of my thoughts on vocation.


Kaycee said...

I can't help you here, this is on my mind all the time. I'm never sure if I'm doing what I should be doing or what I want to be doing and if I am being called to something I'm afraid I'm too distracted to notice.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the idea of being a great something-or-other (usually career related) that I lose focus on what's really important. I know that my husband and children are where my energies SHOULD be focused, but I get bored with the sameness of it all. I've been trying to combat that feeling of dissatisfaction and just be present where I'm needed, but it's hard for me.

Expat From Hell said...

Man, I just love your thoughtfulness and research in this post! We all need to keep in mind that our calling doesn't necessarily guarantee our peaceful execution. St. Paul wasn't exactly the quiet type; although quite driven after his Damascus Road conversion, he pushed his way into an obscure execution after anything but a "normal" life. Is THAT what we are called to? I begin to wonder as I blow through middle age. GREAT POST. I will be back again!