Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Liberate Christians From Themselves

It is probably helpful to break down the pseudo-divide between the secular and the sacred. Especially when it comes to churchwork. As a pastor it is too easy to believe that my churchwork is not worldy work. But in reality, my work as a pastor through the church is just as much of the world as collecting garbage or managing an ER or waiting on tables in a chain restaurant.

"Work puts human beings in the world of things. It requires achievement from them.

Christians step out of the world of personal encounter into the world of impersonal things, the "It"; and this new encounter frees them for objectivity, for the world of the It is only an instrument in the hands of God for the purification of Christians from all self-absorption and selfishness.

The work of the world can only be accomplished where people forget themselves, where they lose themselves in a cause, reality, the task, the It. Christians learn at work to allow the task to set the bounds for them.

Thus, for them, work becomes a remedy for the lethargy and laziness of the flesh. The demands of the flesh die in the world of things. But that can only happen where Christians break through the It to the "You" of God, who commands the work and the deed and makes them serve to liberate Christians from themselves."

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pg 75 [from A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Daily Meditations from His Letters, Writings, and Sermons]

My work as a pastor is in the world, with people of the world. I read, write, speak, plan, ponder and work with all the tools of the world. The one sacred work I do is pray to Christ. And even that task is in the world, often on behalf of the world. In breaking down the illusion that my work is sacred, I can perceive how worldly my work really is. The dismay of this acknowledgment gives way to relief.

Work in the world is a gift of God. In the beginning God blessed work, intended that our work in the world would result in a carefully stewarded Earth that was a blessing to all Creation. Work in the world has obviously been corrupted and a tool of abuse and terror.

But for the Christian, we remember the original blessing of work in the world. And my work in the church could be, as a pastor, as a Christian, a way to reconnect with work in the world as a blessing.

Unfortunately, instead of work being a tool of God to remedy my self-absorption and selfishness, I, like too many people, have merely let work become an avenue for it. The gift of work has become a form of self-enslavement to my vision and desires for achievement rooted in my selfish ambitions.

Indeed I need Christ to liberate me from myself. By the work of my hands I led myself into enslavement, and by the work of my hands, good works that Christ designed for me to participate in, I will I find myself liberated from myself.

I am tempted to squeeze too much significance out of my work. Either to satisfy my insecurities or to fuel my ambitions. The invitation by Christ, though, is to remember the embedded blessing of work itself.

Entering into the work for what I can get out of it is a corrupting action. But participating in the work that I deem is commanded by God, well that kind of work becomes liberating. It becomes liberating because if flows out of simple obedience to Christ, and I am trusting that He is the one using the work for his redemption of the world.

My work in the world is part of the renewal of all things when I let it renew me through my obedience to the tasks set before me by Christ. He saves me in part through the work he gives me to do, which requires my trust and obedience.

In looking ahead, I am hopeful that the work assigned to me in the world will be a form of purification for my self-absorption and selfishness. There is a relief in trusting that through the worldly work God assigns me, he will liberate me from myself. Much to the delight of those who work with me!

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