Blog - Grasping Vocation
Religious Ruts in Your Work World: Part 7Friday, May 07, 2010
YOU HAVE HEARD: YOU ARE JUST A LAYPERSON (to read Part 6)
BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: YOU ARE SALT, LIGHT, SEED, AND MUCH MORE
Many words in the New Testament tell us who we are as Christ-followers. But nowhere does it call any of us by those disabling terms, “laypersons” or “laity.” R. Paul Stevens writes, “While we observe in the church today two classes of people [clergy and laity]…, we discover in the New Testament one ministering people….” (The Other Six Days, p. 30).
Greek words meaning “layperson” existed at the time the New Testament was written. But the writers chose not to use them. “Laikos,” meant of the common people. And “idiotes” meant non-expert. But the New Testament uses neither term to describe believers. Instead, it calls us “laos Theou,” the people of God. Every true Christian belongs to the “laos.” But as the first century ended, one of the church fathers, Clement of Rome, began dividing the church into classes, calling the non-ministering members “laikos” (laity).
Paul Stevens asks, “Should distinctions be eliminated? Yes.” Then he asks, “Can they be? This is a much harder question because of entrenched clericalism” (p. 30). Doing away with these traditional distinctions may be difficult—but we need to begin by returning to the New Testament to understand who we are (including who we are in our workplaces). For starters, here are a few of those terms:
Salt (Matt. 5:13): Christ's life in you equips you as a thirst-maker. Among those in your work network, your example can stimulate thirst for the living water. Like salt, you penetrate and help preserve.
Light (Matt. 5:14): Christ's life in you shines as light into the spiritually darkened corners where you work.
Seed (Matt. 13:38): Yes, God's Word is seed. But as a “son of the Kingdom,” so are you. Like seed, Christ's life in you can take root and bear fruit in others.
Priest (Rev. 5:9-10): You serve as God's representative as you deal with co-workers, clients, supervisors, students, patients, or others in your work circle.
Temple (I Cor. 6:19): You are a house in which God lives, so when you show up for work, God is there in a special way.
Child of God (Jn. 1:12): In your workplace you are to display the family likeness of your Father.
Branch (Jn. 15:5): You can produce the fruit of God's Spirit. And, like a branch, you can bring that fruit within easy reach of co-workers who would never attend a church service.
Part of Christ's Body (I Cor. 12:27): You are gifted to encourage and serve others—not only those in your church gathering on Sunday, but also those you work with through the week.
As you read your Bible in coming days, keep a sharp eye out for other New Testament descriptions of what it says you are in Christ. Then consider how you can practice those roles in your workplace. In the comment space below, tell about more terms God's Word uses to describe your identity.