Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” As if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist?
Luther asked him, “What is your work now?”
“I’m a shoemaker.”
Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe and sell it at a fair price.”
In becoming Christians, we don’t need to retreat from the vocational calling we already have. Nor do we need to justify that calling, whatever it is, in terms of its “spiritual” value or evangelistic usefulness. We simply exercise whatever our calling is with new God-glorifying motives, goals, and standards-and with a renewed commitment to performing our calling with greater excellence and higher objectives.
One way we reflect our Creator is by being creative right where we are with the talents and gifts he has given us. As Paul says, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. . . . So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:20, 24). As we do this, we fulfill our God-given mandate to reform, to beautify, our various “stations” for God’s glory.
I once heard Os Guinness speak about what such reform will require. He said the main reason Christians aren’t making more of a difference in our world is not that they aren’t where they should be. There are, in other words, plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners that are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.
Outwardly, there may be no clearly discernible difference between a non-Christian’s work and that of a Christian. Many have noted that a transformational approach to culture doesn’t mean every human activity practiced by a Christian (designing computers, repairing cars, selling insurance, or whatever) must be obviously and externally different from the same activities practiced by non-Christians. Rather, the difference is found in “the motive, goal, and standard.” John Frame writes, “The Christian seeks to change his tires to the glory of God and the non-Christian does not. But that’s a difference that couldn’t be captured in a photograph. When changing tires, a Christian and non-Christian may look very much alike.”
Not only is Christ the Lord of the church; he’s also supreme over the family, the arts, the sciences, and human society at large. In the famous words of Abraham Kuyper, “There is not one square inch in the entire domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”
That’s why we must not withdraw from the world but rather bring the standards of God’s Word to bear on every dimension of human culture. Making a difference for Christ means bringing every area of our lives under his lordship. We must live in passionate devotion to him at all times and in all circumstances. As we do this, God’s renewing power is unleashed through us.
So, while Christians are to separate from the self-glorifying motives, God-ignoring goals, and subpar work standards of the world (our spiritual separation), we’re not to separate from the peoples, places, and things in the world (a spatial separation). We’re to be morally and spiritually distinct without being culturally segregated.
In Luke 16:9, Jesus encourages his disciples to match the resourcefulness of worldly people in reaching goals, but he specifies that the goals Christians pursue are different. We’re to focus on the glory of the age to come, not on the worldly pursuits of pleasure, profit, and position. The old saying that Christians shouldn’t be so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly good is true as far as it goes, but in today’s world Christians’ earthly good depends on our heavenly mindedness. This reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s remark that the Christians who did the most for the present age were those who thought the most of the next.
Adapted from Tullian Tchividjian's book Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different, released by Multnomah Books.