How Does God Want You to Engage in the World?
by Gordon T. Smith
Our work is a participation in the work of God, so we have asked the question, “What on earth is God doing?” But that then leads to the “how” question: How is God doing this work? And this inevitably brings us to the cross of Christ Jesus.
We come to see that the cross reflects not something incidental or secondary to the ways of God, but that it is a lens into the heart of the Creator. By this I mean that the cross was not merely a clever means by which God could bring about the salvation of one and all. What must be appreciated is that the cross tells us something—or better, reveals something— about the very nature and ways of God.
This is why so many are taken with the opening words of Psalm 86. The words of the psalmist remind us that we can turn to God wherever and whenever and find in God one who is for us not against us. Even more, the Lord God is inclined (what a tremendous word!) toward us, leaning in and eager to be the One who responds to us in our time of need. The cross is the powerful revelation of this divine disposition: a demonstration that God is the Servant who gives his very self. Indeed, God gives the very Son of God for the sake of the world.
God is Creator and Redeemer, and God is powerful, no doubt. But the danger is that we are taken with and celebrate this power but miss that the very heart of God is this disposition of self-giving for the sake of others, for the sake of all humanity and for the sake of the whole cosmos. Any and all divine power is in the service of this self-giving God. It is so beautiful and so compelling that God’s power finds ultimate and exquisite expression in the cross.
It is against this backdrop that we come to the extraordinary call of Jesus to his disciples:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Mt 16:24-26)
This suggests to us that our Christian identity and our work is infused with and animated by the paschal mystery, the way of the cross. The cross of Christ does not exempt us from our own cross but actually reveals to us the ways of God and thus the ways of those who live in intimate fellowship with God, who do their work in response to the call of God. We engage our world as those who hear the call of Christ, the One who calls and sends his disciples as the Father had sent him (Jn 20:21). Just as the cross was integral to the calling of Christ, a “cross” of some sort will intersect our lives and be integral to our vocation, the good work to which we are called.
And so it is very helpful to ask: “What is the cross that I have been called to bear?” It can be very helpful for each of us to consider this question in light of our circumstances and our calling, and how we are being invited by God to do good work. In other words, the cross of Christ will find different expressions in different people’s lives.
-From Question 5: What Is the Cross You Will Have to Bear, in Consider Your Calling by Gordon Smith
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