Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Call from the Unwanted

Vocation, or one's calling, as Frederick Buechner reflected, is the place where "Your deepest longing meets the world's greatest need." After studying Joseph's decision this Advent, I would add another layer to the definition. For Joseph, Mary's difficult circumstance became an awakening to a decision to a new kind of righteousness.

Matthew 1:18-25 tells us that Joseph was already known as a righteous man before he chose to be Jesus' earthly father. He was righteous because he abided by the Old Testament purity laws like every other faithful devoted Jewish male. But the purity laws usually forced people to withdraw from the defiled and profane. Mary was viewed by the culture like Bathsheba, Rahab, and a long line of other sinful people. But like these women, their circumstances awakened the call of God in their lives. In Joseph's case, he redefined righteousness for all of us. Instead of withdrawing from those deemed "impure" by the religious. He walked into the place and lived with the person whom the villagers would surely disgrace (as the text says).

Vocation can also be then the moment when you see the world's greatest need, and despite your upbringing, you enter the world of the needy to be the righteousness that they need. What a calling, what a privilege, what a challenge.

When someone in our family or network chooses a lifestyle that scripture deems as "sinful," or when a friend makes a mistake that he will later regret, we have two choices for righteousness-- one that withdraws from them back to the Old Testament view. Or another kind of righteousness-- the kind that causes us to join the crisis. Their choice (or maybe our choices) awaken the call of God on our lives to enter the unwanted, difficult circumstance. And in that moment there is "Immanuel-- God with Us."

And when we are the ones who have made the choice, mistake, and have sinned, the very act of making the mistake can awaken God's call on our lives. It can be a moment-- much as experienced by Bathsheba, Rahab, and many others who have found God in their brokenness, and even God found them.

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