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"Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time." -- CS Lewis

Friday, January 21, 2011

God's Social Network

“Vocation” is a word that incites an interesting reaction at Calvin College: all of the students groan at its mention. Its reception will surely be “Oh my goodness, don’t talk about that again!” It ranks up among the likes of “Discernment,” “Worldview” and “Agent of Renewal” on the chart of the biggest wince-inducing sayings on campus. It is thrown around so frequently and lightly that it turns into something of a cliché, a piece of a ready-made response to be spewed whenever the time seems right. (And it seems that the time is often right at Calvin; case and point: Prelude class.)

But I think it a shame that this word has lost its grandeur; there are so many beautiful ways in which God uses this concept in our world and for His Kingdom. Think about it: God hand-created each one of us, each one with a piece of His glory inside crafted in such a way that it defines how we share this splendor. This calling, as it becomes, turns into our life’s passion, which we pursue arduously and with determination to God’s great delight (if we are doing it for Him). This vocation, as Plantinga calls it, is God’s unique plan for our lives, and this is a concept I find quite fascinating and not in the least bit trivial or cliché. It seems incomprehensible that God would use such microscopic creatures to redeem the rest of creation through our vocations, but as Chaplain Dale Cooper says, “God’s other name is ‘Surprise.’”

The most fascinating part of vocation to me, however, is the sort of network that they form. God uses each of individual strands of vocation and ties them all together to give an even more exquisite picture of the advancement of shalom. Just he knit each of us together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13), so too does he weave together all of our callings to form a new kind of body: the Body of Christ, each part with its particular purpose and function. By grafting ourselves onto the Tree of Life and the Body, we thus strive in our lives for the Kingdom. As Plantinga says,

A Christian’s main vocation is to become a prime citizen of the kingdom of God – and this is true of every Christian, of artist and engineers as well as ministers and evangelists. All are called to mesh their kingdoms with those of other citizens in order to work together inside the kingdom of God.

The saddening thing about this is that certain vocations have lost their legitimacy in the eyes of many Christians. In my English 101 class last semester, a girl was speaking about her interest in psychology, but she wanted to divorce that field completely from the field of business; she claim that the latter was “unethical,” and that she could never be a part of it for this reason. Being a business major myself, I was taken aback by this statement. Yes, maybe business and politics and journalism and other such professions do have a tendency to bend one’s morals and give ample opportunity for corruption, but that is precisely why Christians must pursue them. Christians must set a positive example in these fields if we ever want to advance shalom in all areas of life. This is exactly what we mean by “reform”: restoring that which was originally pure and godly to its rightful state.

A businessman can use his expertise to go and help poor villages in third-world countries to create sustainable businesses and employment for the locals. A politician can use his position to help governments support these new businesses through funding. A journalist can then write about the efforts taking place there and raise further awareness about the situation to bring in more support. This is just a simple portrait of how Christians can interweave their supposedly “bad” vocations and point them towards heaven. As Plantinga says, “God uses […] institutions and groups to do some of the business of the kingdom, and Christians play their role in all of them.”

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