John Coltrane – Liner notes to A Love Supreme
John Dennison’s article in this edition of Common Ground completes the third movement in our Theology of Work series, describing how God’s redemptive plan, fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, encompasses even our working lives. We are redeemed and restored back into our royal position and our priestly role—free to serve “in every good endeavour”—indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And God not only sanctifies our work through the completed work of Christ: he continues to sanctify us through our work. Given how much time we spend in our work settings, it shouldn’t surprise us that there are arenas in which Christ’s Spirit can go to work on us—cultivating virtues, challenging vices, and encouraging creativity and imagination.
An author who has helpfully unpacked the implications of this in the trenches of everyday work is the founder of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian church, Tim Keller. In his books, Center Church and Every Good Endeavour (a title borrowed from the John Coltrane quote above), he identifies four ways in which our lives of faith should shape and inform our work:
I. Our faith changes our motivation for work;
II. Our faith changes our conception of work;
III. Our faith provides high ethics for Christians in the workplace; and
IV. Our faith gives us the basis for re-conceiving the very way in which our kind of work is done.
It is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but these four simple themes do cover a lot of ground. Given that no resource or programme can outline the exact detail of what being a Christian in every different setting is supposed to look like, keeping these in mind can help create postures that make those details a little easier to prayerfully discern.