Apr 23, 2008

The Lawyer's Vocation -- Part III

A few final, simple points on the lawyer's calling:

1. We are called to love the actual neighbors we've been given here and now, not some ideal or imagined neighbor. The parents we've been given, the folks who live next door, the secretary in our office, the clients who have hired us, the siblings God has given us: to these we are called. As we seek to discern the obligations we have to these folks based upon relationship, gifting, and role, we'll begin to understanding our callings. For lawyers and law students, this can be a real epiphany for those seeking God's purpose in various types of practices.

2. It should be obvious then, that calling is more about today's duties than it is about a lifelong career. Of course, God may call some of us to the same roles, the same tasks, and the same sorts of neighbors over a lifetime, but most often, it seems that God directs us now to one task, then to another.

For example, it is possible for me to say that for most of my life, from childhood through most of adulthood, I am called as a son: that is, I am duty-bound to love specific parents in specific ways that entail obligations and benefits that others (besides my siblings) do not have. On the other hand, I may be called as an employee-- again, with specific duties to specific employers concerning specific gifts-- but only for a summer or a season. My calling as fish fryer at a fast-food joint was a mercifully short-lived one, for example, but I was called to those tasks and those neighbors (bosses, customers, co-workers, shareholders) in a real way by God. Rather than looking for "the thing" to which we are called, we should be aware of the duties we have right now and "the good that we ought to do."

"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." James 4:17 (NIV).

3. We need mentors and teachers to help us discern our giftings, sort out the nature of the relationships we find ourselves in, and recognize the duties that come with particular roles. Calling comes-- that is, it is discovered and developed-- primarily within community. Our calling is to serve others as stewards of the gifts God has given us, and it is others who help us discern how to serve and how to develop our gifts.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV).

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