Saturday. It’s a beautiful day for playing outside with friends. A young boy dresses hurriedly, swallows his breakfast almost whole, and prepares to burst through the door into the beckoning sunshine. His plans collapse the moment his mother’s voice rings out. “Whoa! You gotta clean your room first.”
Talking about vocation is exciting. We are energized at the thought of an overall sense of purpose that gives us a part in the bigger story of God’s work in the world. But there is a lot of life that doesn’t fit neatly into a vocational box.
Alongside God’s call to love that applies to all Christians and His call to each of us individually to live out that love in very specific ways, He also calls us to live out love in our individual tasks and responsibilities that vary from day to day.
These tasks and responsibilities are different than our unique vocations. They are places for us to faithfully live but may or may not contribute to our overall sense of mission in the world. “The daily demands on our lives are not necessarily threats to the fulfillment of our vocation…They are all part of what it means to be called of God.”
God calls us to follow Him in all our time. In fact it’s not really our time at all, it’s his! So maybe that’s in a job that just seems to pay the bills but not much more, the interrupting phone call from a friend, daily chores like washing dishes, or that stranger walking home in the rain who might just need a ride. When we believe that our time is actually God’s, we take on a posture of anticipation toward what the Lord will bring our way that day.
Some responsibilities are certainly easier to look forward to than others. Some things fit more easily into our sense of mission in life while others might just seem pointless.
We can learn from believers who were slaves in Roman times. Masters had total authority over their slaves, even to the point of life and death. Yet, the Apostle Paul writes,
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” (Ephesians 6:5-7)
Here were people who had no option of career change, yet they are invited to do their work as God’s work. Their own daily work was given dignity because they were now doing their master’s business—their master being Jesus. Our work is to be worship—done “as if you were serving the Lord”.
These people had responsibilities of the day that didn’t seem related to a sense of mission, but how they did them could be.
Following Jesus becomes the way in which we live, not necessarily the means by which we live. It is something more than what we do on coffee breaks or weekends. We live as followers of Christ not just by how much we can witness to our co-workers or how much time we can take after work to help our neighbors, as good and important as those things are. Our work itself can be worship, and how we do our work can be an arrow pointing to Jesus. We must ask ourselves, then, “To whom does my life point, especially in the interruptions and less glamorous tasks of my day?”[Read “God’s Call to Reach Out”]
Gordon T. Smith, Courage and Calling (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 11.
It is helpful to note, however, that the gospel doesn’t condone oppression—these lists in Ephesians and Colossians for wives, children, and slaves actually turn the status quo on its head by redefining the master or Lord (the legal terminology of the time for the male head of the household) as Jesus. See Eph. 6:9 and the book of Philemon for evidence that the movement of the gospel was intended to have an impact on the reigning oppressive social structures of the day. See also: Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004). Especially pp. 201-219.