Vocation, Brokenness, and Revealing the Messiah

If in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), then is it true that Christ can be revealed through those same treasures of wisdom and knowledge?

Of course! Do we not as Christian educators deal daily with those same treasures, whether in kindergarten or AP calculus? So how are we doing when it comes to revealing Christ within these treasures? It is obviously true that teachers will reveal Christ to those we teach only if we ourselves are looking for him.

But how? Here I am suggesting two ways among many.

Vocation and Calling

According to N.T. Wright, humans are given a vocation. As early as creation itself, but continuing through Abraham, to Moses, to the people of Israel, and finally to both Jews and Gentiles, humans are given the vocation of “being a blessing to the nations.” In both Genesis and Galatians (and many others biblical texts), our calling is emphasized as one of being a blessing, of joining with God in his returning his/our world to its original “very goodness.”

“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:18-19).

“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14).

I suggest that, as we teach, we look for ways in which humans have both followed this godly vocational calling (or tried to) and look for ways in which humans have clearly followed other “vocations.” In such a way, our students may begin the process of discerning Christ in and through the varied disciplines (examples to follow).

Asking the Right Questions

Secondly, what does shalom mean here, in this instance? How does the current state of “what is” compare to the very-goodness of God’s original intention? Or perhaps more easily discerned, “What is broken here?”

As we consider some of the disciplines, keep in mind that the concepts presented here will need to be translated into terms appropriate to the age of the students.

Languages (both English and others)

As my own children began music lessons and participated in band and orchestra in school, my wife and I would attend the spring concerts. The directors arranged the concerts so that we would experience the lower levels of instruction first, and move on up through the grades until the high school students would perform the finale. So it is with language. We begin haltingly, brokenly, very far from what God intended. As we grow, we can begin to use language to glorify him, to organize our thoughts to discern wisdom and create beauty, and to build up and edify our community. When we teach languages from the perspective of human vocation and creating shalom, we are about the business of revealing Christ.

History and literature

Both are rich with examples of men and women who, to various degrees and from differing motivations, sought to be blessings (or curses) to themselves and others. Seeing literature and history through the lens of human vocation and shalom-bringing can help focus our instruction on revealing Christ and God’s purposes through our teaching. Which characters sought justice, lived as servants to the greater God-glorifying good, or sought to bring order out of chaos?

Bible and theology

Try including in your teaching a thread about human vocation. To what extent (or not) are biblical characters living out their calling to be a blessing to others, to fix what is broken? What are the “secrets” of the biblical spiritual giants that empowered them to be shalom-bringers? How did certain people’s attraction to idolatry interfere with their human vocational calling? Again, more questions than answers, but I am convinced they are the right questions!

Science and math

The school where I currently serve has identified a number of means by which humans might live out our human vocation. We are servants of God by being God-glorifying, wisdom-discerning, creation-keeping, beauty-creating, justice-seeking, servant- living, community-building, and order-discovering “blessings to the nations.” I believe the teaching of science and math abundantly addresses these human vocational concerns in at least two ways. First, God’s glory (and Christ himself) is revealed in the beauty and order inherent in the created order, itself made known through the study of math and science. Second, science and math can be the means by which wisdom is discerned, beauty created, God’s world is cared for, justice is sought, communities are built, and order is discovered. For example, a class of 7th graders at my former school became concerned about the dripping water faucet at the back of the classroom. In the face of the severe (at the time) California drought, the students wondered how much their leaky faucet was contributing to the “brokenness” of their world. Using math to discover the rate of flow multiplied by the days of the school year, they composed a letter to the proper authorities: a small but powerful example of using mathematics to be more “human” in the godly sense of the word.

We have the means to apply the human vocational and shalom-bringing teaching perspectives to our practice. All we need is the will to make the effort a priority.

– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist

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