2012 Resolution, Part 4

Livermore’s third strategy for making a global difference right now is, work it into work.

This can be very challenging, especially for those jobs that seem to have little to do with the wide world.  Livermore writes, for example, “Some people working in manufacturing jobs might find little satisfaction in their work because they have a hard time seeing how the widget they produce fulfills their priestly calling.”  Global difference aside, many of us find it difficult to make even an immediate difference in our jobs.  A friend of mine in property management once wrote:

My job is basically to serve the wealthier (or as we have found out in the last couple of years, those with access to a bank or lender’s wealth) and help them make more money off of those who are less wealthy. It’s a passive system of oppression and I’m not unaware that most of our owners are white and most of our tenants are black. Nothing that I do in my job gives me the opportunity to relate to people. They want me to fix their problems or affirm their feelings. Nothing more. Also everyone in my office is a believer.

This might represent opportunity to work for reform, or it might be an intractable situation.  But assuming the best case scenario, even Livermore’s advice has a very local orientation.

There are countless other ways Christians can live out Christ’s presence in the world through the work they do. There are lawyers doing pro bono defense work for those unable to afford it, politicians working for legislation that brings about redemptive change in cities and nations, and pilots safely transporting people from one side of the world to the other. There are third-shift factory workers who make parts of gadgets that make our lives safer, and while they work, they relate graciously with their immigrant coworkers. There are retail associates dealing with cantankerous customers in ways that embody the grace of Jesus, and baristas who serve people with a smile and use their coffee shop as a platform for advocacy. Construction workers are taking into account how they care for the environment and fixing the homes of people in need. Military personnel, police officers, and firefighters are protecting us, farmers are feeding us, and truck drivers are getting goods to people near and far. Meanwhile many stay-at-home parents are working for love, sometimes only for love. Look around you for creative ways to connect your global concerns with your work!

That last sentence seems disconnected from much of what the rest of the paragraph mentions.  How does pro bono legal defense, kindness to customers, or stay-at-home parenting relate to global issues?  All of those things are good and necessary, but how does Livermore make the leap from local to global in such scenarios?  If I’m doing something thoroughly local, the advice to look for creative ways to connect my global concern to that work can be a little frustrating.

To be fair to Livermore, a number of the subsequent chapters aim to make suggestions for specific fields of work.  Yet, the real issue is about perspective.  We need a global perspective on our local work in order to see the importance of doing that local work rightly.  The connection between the global and the local generated one of those bizarre new words that is utilitarian rather than elegant: glocal (from global-local).  This word is the symbol of the realization that the world is more powerfully integrated than ever before.  I’ve written about this here if you are interested in further explanation.

The point being, the first step of working it into work is to change your outlook on your local impact. There may be overt ways to make a global difference from your job, but even if not, the opposite of overt is not imaginary but covert—hidden.  We need to begin discerning the truth about our glocal lives.  When we do, we see how our connection to the rest of the world means that doing our work excellently and righteously reverberates globally.  As an individual, that may realistically be the tiniest of tremors, but as an intentional Christian community, those collective tremors build momentum.  In addition to discerning the glocal aspect of your life, therefore, I also think refusing to see your work individualistically is indispensable.  Every one of us needs a community with a missional outlook.

Some might have the impression that my job as a cross-cultural missionary is easier when it comes to working it into work.  Foreign mission work appears to be “making a global difference” by definition.  Yet, the reality is that we are as focused locally as the next church.  Sure, as an American I’m attempting to make an impact in Peru.  But as a minister, I’m trying to disciple and serve those around me.  It’s very easy to keep my head down and fail to look up at the global horizon.  For me, working it into work means fostering a glocal perspective and making sure that the Christian community understands how “spurring each other on” is about the world rather than just the individual.  Hopefully that will result in the Peruvian church sending missionaries out as well, but just as importantly, is should result in every Christian looking for those creative ways to make a tremor.

2012 Resolution, Part 4