The Christian’s place in the world has always seemed to me to oscillate between isolation or in-volvement; retreating from the world as much as possible or controlling the world as much as pos-sible. We grow up with mantras such as ‘living in the world but not of the world’ or ‘this world is not our home’ except we can’t live anywhere but in this world. So Christians are always relating to how they live in the world. Welcome to 2000 years of church history for the wider perspective. Welcome also to the everyday issues and interactions Christians face as citizens, employees or employers, family members, people who have likes and dislikes, gifts and talents.
During the week in the space of about two hours I had chats in the course of everyday-bumping-into-people-living with two people, whom I knew to be ardent cricket followers. So in the general chit-chat I asked about their opinion on what has happened with the cricketer Kevin Pietersen who was not selected for the tour to the Caribbean after England’s huge Ashes de-feat. ‘Probably the way to go to build a new team’ said one. ‘Absolutely scandalous’ said the other. Both per-spectives were convincing but I’m simply ambivalent – ‘don’t care’ is too strong – it is simply not part of my world except for my interest in the sport and my chat-ting with two people.
During the week I read that the leading Roman Catholic cleric in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, attacked the Government’s welfare reforms as a ‘disgrace’ and ‘more punitive’ because they are causing more and more people to be destitute and rely on such things as food banks. Last year the new Archbishop of Canterbury said something similar. This is closer to home in many more ways than cricket and yet what should I do? Research for myself? Join a picket line? Write to the ELCE Chairman? Contact my MP? Add to the food bank basket in the church?
How should I follow Jesus in these two quick fairly random, every day events (talking with people and catching the news)? If I give you a formulaic answer I am running counter to the chief quality of Christian living – that component of living in this world that is often forgotten by Christians and disbelieved by the world – freedom.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slav-ery (Galatians 5:1 ESV).
This freedom is not for my selfish behaviour but for living as God intended where I am in the here and now and in the relationships I’m in. This is where the Lutheran teaching on vocation is such a wonderful perspective. God calls us to stand in the relationships he’s placed us – family, church, and state – and to serve as the opportunities arise. Yes, there will always be more we can do – we have freedom after all – but this perspective helps us deal with some things and leave other things for others to handle. As we go through each day we can be conscious of our vocations – our roles and responsibilities – and live in all three areas picking up those tasks God draws to our attention (and praying for the rest).
Yes, we live in the world – we get involved as we believe God guides us – not reluctantly or arro-gantly – but, as people who follow the crucified Lord, we seek to serve. — GS