If you have a bad sense of direction, your first stop at the mall is probably the directory with its map. “You are here” gives us a point of reference. In Scripture, we discover that we’re all located in this precarious intersection between this present evil age and the age to come. Christ’s kingdom is already here, but it’s not yet consummated. Christ came the first time in humility and self-sacrifice to bring salvation; the second time, he’ll come in power and glory as the judge of the world (Matt. 24:30; 25:31–36). So what do we do in the meantime?
Some answer this by saying we need to transform the world into the kingdom of Christ. Others react to this by saying, “Why rearrange the furniture on a sinking ship? The only true and lasting work is that of saving souls.” There’s also a third and more biblical view that says that Christians are called to witness to Christ while serving their neighbors through their various callings.
In Romans 12, Paul writes, “I appeal to you, therefore … by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). We don’t appease God by our good works, but those who trust in Christ are made recipients of God’s grace and mercy. Believers are passive receivers of the gift of salvation; we’re then made active worshipers in a life of thanksgiving that’s exhibited chiefly in our loving service to our neighbors.
Out of gratitude for all that we’ve been given, we worship God not merely in a once-a-week church service in which we sing God’s praises and receive his good gifts. We’re also called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and to show hospitality to others. See, this is why we’re encouraged both to sing hymns with thanksgiving, as well as to work well with our hands so that we may win the respect of outsiders (1 Thess. 4:11–12). We’re all waiting for the day when Christ returns and makes the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of Christ. Until then, we’re called neither to transform society, nor to abandon it, but simply to love and serve our neighbors in sincerity and truth. And we do this in response to God’s grace, not as a means of acquiring it.
Who’s in Front of You?
There are many common callings in the world. Some help to extend Christ’s kingdom directly, but most of us are called simply to provide loving service to others according to the gifts that God has distributed. You may be called to a particular profession—you may design buildings, practice medicine, or clean washrooms. Just as there are no insignificant callings in Christ’s body, there’s no role in society that’s beneath you. After all, given the humility of our Savior—even to the point of suffering on the cross—the real question isn’t what’s beneath you, but what’s in front of you—namely, your neighbor, who needs your help. All this is part of your call to be salt and light.
At this point, it’s good to think about the way God answers us when we ask him to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). How exactly does God answer that request? Has bread ever fallen into your lap? Probably not. But God has provided you with bread and nourishment through providence. In other words, God is our ultimate provider who serves us through the callings of farmers, truck drivers, bakers, storekeepers, and so forth, regardless of whether they’re Christians or not. We should love and serve others to the best of our ability, knowing that God is the one serving them through us.
This is an excerpt from Core Christianity 101, a Core Bible study that aims at giving you a foundation in the basics. Check it out here.