I have a calling. You have a calling. We all have a calling.
It’s such a funny little word “calling.” In the church, we think of it mainly as the idea that someone is supposed to pursue churchy kind of work as a paid career. We think people are called to be a pastor, a missionary, or a chaplain. Everyone else has “jobs”, but ministers have a “calling.”
But what if that picture is all wrong. What if calling is first and foremost not about a particular activity, but a particular person?
When Jesus calls his first disciples, he says, “follow me.” He says later that “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) When describing himself as the good shepherd, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Put another way, to have a calling, there must first be One Who Calls. Jesus calls us to follow him. To be in relationship with him. That relationship is our primary calling. That relationship transforms all of our activity.
What if our calling is rooted not so much in finding just the right activities to do, but rather in knowing the One who transforms all our activity into meaningful ministry? Paul uses this truth to give hope to the Christians who were in slavery “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
If that was true then, how much more true it is now. The message is clear: serve where we have been placed. Do the work before us as service unto the Lord.
Now an important caveat must be inserted: don’t take this to mean that we show no ambition or desire to improve our lot. Paul says in I Corinthians 7:21 that if a slave can gain his freedom, than he should do so. There is nothing wrong with seeking a better position, work that suits your talents more, or a job that expands your opportunities. Indeed, the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) seems to suggest that we should seek these opportunities.
The point here is that we shouldn’t make an idol out of opportunity. Jesus isn’t a means to help us find the right job. Jesus isn’t a genie who pops out of his magic bottle to help us discover a more fulfilling career. The contrast we’re talking about isn’t complacency vs improvement. The contrast is a life lived following Christ, or a life following our own desires.
So, let us remember our first calling – the call to follow Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria