Feb 3, 2011

Gifts, Talents, and The Gift

Last week, I had the privilege to be a part of two great events. First, I gave an address to the students and faculty at the spiritual life retreat at Regent University School of Law. It was great to be with friends and colleagues and to discuss the calling of the Christian lawyer with so many committed, faithful students.

From Regent, I made my way to Seattle and headed up and over Stevens Pass to Plain, Washington, where I experienced the hospitality of the Seattle CLS group and the good fellowship of about 50 local lawyers and law students at the Christian Legal Society Northwest Regional Retreat. Our main event was the inspiration and encouragement of Bob Goff, whose stories of his "capers" are unsurpassed. If you don't know Bob or at least know of him, check out some of these videos, and get a glimpse of his passion, his taste for "whimsy"-- and his heart for justice at Restore International.

I also had the pleasure to speak after Bob headed off to Uganda to love his neighbors over there. In both my Regent Law School address and the Seattle sermon, I used 1 Peter 4:10-12, as my text. It begins:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.

What "gift" has each of us received? Well, certainly, in the law school context, law students and lawyers have the gifts and talents that go with analytical reasoning skills, reading comprehension, and sound logic. I think this verse is most definitely talking about this kind of gift, for the passage is clear that we ought to use what we are given to serve others. I think that is the basic idea of "calling": we love our neighbors, wherever we are, using the gifts and resources we have on hand to love those people that God has placed "near" us. The lawyer's calling is not much more than figuring out how to love neighbors in and through the law. It's not easy, and it's not easy to figure out who these neighbors are and how best to love them. But that is the task, nonetheless.

In addition, though, the "gift" we have received is the stamp of the Creator—His image—that allows us to work and create and serve in this world in the first place. What a privilege! We are stewards of His grace, entrusted with His work in the world. The better we realize that or task is to serve one another with the grace poured out on us, the better we are able to be channels of that grace, living open handedly and graciously with our clients, our partners, our employees, and our classmates. And lawyers are notoriously bad, I think, at living open-handedly and graciously. Our pride tells us, perhaps only in a whisper, that really we don't need grace, since we're basically pretty smart and virtuous in the first place. Our cynicism tells us that those around us have a dark secret they're hiding, and that, nonsensically, they don't merit God's favor. And our legalism tells us that productivity and success are higher goals than loving relationships.

Live generously. Live gladly. Love your neighbors. It's a high calling.

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