What Is Your Calling?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
We tend to use the language of calling in two ways. In secular terms, "calling" can be the equivalent of "profession" or "vocation." (In fact, "vocation" comes from the Latin word vocatio, which means "calling.") For the most part, however, we reserve the language of calling for ordained clergy, who have a "calling" to church ministry or missionary work.
The first verse of Ephesians 4 uses the language of calling quite differently. When Paul urges us to "live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received," he is not speaking of our secular employment or church leadership, though calling surely informs both of these. Rather, calling is something that each and every Christian has received from God, both individually and as a member of Christ's body.
So, then, what is our calling? Elsewhere in Ephesians, Paul uses the language of calling to refer to our future inheritance as God's people. In 1:18, he prays that we may know "the hope to which he has called [us], the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people." Then, in 4:4, Paul says we were "called to one hope when [we] were called." So, the calling we have received has to do with a future orientation, in which we live with confident assurance about the wonderful future God has in store for us.
Yet, in 4:1, the language of calling includes our future hope, even as it encompasses all that we have learned about God and ourselves in the first three chapters of Ephesians. As you may recall, in Ephesians 1:10 we encountered God's ultimate intention for the cosmos: "to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." This ultimate future state is a result of God's work that began even before creation (1:4). This work, focused in Jesus Christ, is an expression of God's "glorious grace," by which we are saved (1:6, 2:8). Moreover, when we experience salvation by grace through faith, we are newly created in Christ for good works that God has "prepared in advance for us to do" (2:10). We do these works, not only as individual believers, but also and essentially as members of God's household, in which God's own Spirit dwells (2:19-22).
Thus, our future hope of God's unifying and restoring all things helps to define and shape our calling. Not only does this vision of the future inspire us, but also it calls us to action. By God's amazing grace, we participate in his work of cosmic redemption. Every one of us, if we trust Christ as our Savior, has been called into partnership with God in his saving, redeeming, renewing, uniting work. We are to "live a life worthy" of this glorious calling.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you sense God calling you to participate in his work of redemption? Why or why not? What has helped you to see your life in this way? Or, what keeps you from seeing your life in this way? How are you already responding to your calling? How might your life begin to change if you took this calling seriously?
PRAYER: Thank you, gracious God, for your astounding work of redeeming and renewing all things. Thank you for including me in this work by your grace, saving me and recreating me for good works that you have prepared for me.
Help me, dear Lord, to hear and understand the calling you have given to me. Teach me to see my whole life in light of this calling. Help me to learn how to live out my calling in every facet of my life: as a worker, as a student, as a family member, as a citizen, as a member of your church. Even this day, may the calling you have given me influence my life in practical ways. By your Spirit, help me to see how I might live a life worthy of my calling today. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: For an excellent overview of a Christian understanding of calling, see "Vocation Overview" at the Theology of Work Project.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.