Monthly Archives: May 2007

Cultivating Femininity in Our Daughters: Coed Sports

Everyone loves a good cookout volleyball game. Or a fun coed wiffleball or ultimate frisbee game. Those sorts of activities can be really enjoyable, and I’ve personally had alot of fun in such settings. Coed sports can be fun when they’re relaxed. But when one wants to play seriously (an amusing phrase), the benefits of coed sports plummet.

In our egalitarian age, guys and girls often compete seriously together. I, for one, almost never enjoy this. When I want to play seriously, I want to play hard, physically, and without worrying about contact with the opposite sex. Playing with girls changes the whole feel of the game. One goes from enjoying the game to worrying about how the girl is doing, or whether or not one should make contact with her. I’ve played basketball now in several leagues in which girls played with guys, and I’ve always strongly disliked it. Girls should play with girls, and guys should compete with guys. Men are almost always stronger and rougher and they most enjoy playing with fellow men, who they don’t have to worry about hurting or embarassing. Even in Christian circles, though, the sexes play together. This shocks me. Egalitarianism has truly taken hold of our culture.

This is not an issue of incredible importance, but I am trying to point out one small way in which a larger system–egalitarianism–manifests itself in our society. I am also attempting to say that most Christians, I think, don’t even think this matter through. They simply assume that the way the society works is the way it should work. This is a poor assumption. We need to question everything our culture puts before us. We need to examine it, and to examine the Bible, and then approach the culture. We do not simply assume that what secular society promotes is a good thing. Often the ideas and principles it puts forth are antithetical to conformed Christianity, yet few of us realize this. I’m going to do a larger series on sports later (I’ve done little ones before), but for now, I want to hold up the example of sports. How many of us really think through how much time we should devote to them? And, once we’ve committed to sports, how much do we think about how we participate in them? I fear that the answer for most us is this: very little.

With that said, then, I want to encourage Christians to keep the sexes separate in matters of serious competition and sport. Egalitarianism is not a good thing, and neither are its trickle-down effects. When I exercise or play, I don’t want to have to worry about a woman boxing me out. I don’t want a woman to whom I am not married making any more physical contact with me than is absolutely necessary–and the contact found in pickup basketball, for instance, is certainly not necessary. I don’t want to have to take it easy, or not play as hard, or be worried about a woman’s feelings while I’m exercising. I propose that we return sports and lots of other areas in life to their former place of non-complication (to invent a word) and reclaim sacred spaces for men and women. Though egalitarianism speaks loudly to us, we don’t have to listen. We can instead focus our attention on cultivating biblical masculinity and femininity, a discipline for which most of us need far more “practice” than we receive.

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Cultivating Femininity in Our Daughters: On Sports and Culture

There is no perfect standard by which to measure which sports girls might play, as Stephen suggested (check out his interesting blog here). With this subject, we’re going to have to do what we do on a constant basis as Christians: discern. Think. Cogitate. There aren’t necessarily easy answers to this question, and so we’ll need to think wisely about how we can cultivate a gentle, beautiful femininity in our daughters.

In doing so, we will be going against the cultural grain. Women in cultural media today are shockingly aggressive, tough, and take-charge. The image sold over and over again in films and tv is that women should be all of these things, that they essentially have no need of men, and that their fundamental disposition should be hard-nosed, independent, and aggressive. Just take a look at popular television shows and high-grossing films and you will see this type of character pop up continuously. Whether they all seek to do so intentionally or not, the media of our country parades before us countless female characters who exhibit everything but biblical femininity.

Sports comes into our discussion because it is one of the primary training grounds for aggressive, hard-nosed femininity. Coaches treat girls much like boys, develop their bodies in similar ways, and develop attitudes that smack of independence and toughness. This may work for winning games, but it doesn’t help to develop godly femininity. As Christians, we don’t our girls to be just like our boys. We don’t them to be tough and bulky, hard-charging and gritty. We want them to be sweet and gentle. We don’t them to be aggressive in a physical or even social sense. We want them to learn to follow, to be sweet-spirited, to be kind. We don’t want our girls to bulk up like guys, to physically resemble men save for a few differences. I know I’m speaking a bit directly here, but I very much mean what I say, and I suspect that others share my opinion. A girl can’t help her natural build, but she can avoid packing on muscle and girth in the way that guys do. Sports encourages girls to be tomboys, which is a telling word, because in entering into lots of high-contact athletic activity, girls do indeed become more like boys in many ways, some of which I’ve outlined here. Watch the WNBA or some other such league, and you see just this: women who look and act more like men than women. This is not a good thing, and we should guard against it in our homes.

As I said yesterday, there are some sports that I think are fine for women. Tennis and volleyball come to mind. Should I ever have daughters, and should be they be athletic, I’m going to encourage them to head more toward these sports than the high-contact sports. Should I have boys, I’ll push them more towards sports like basketball, baseball, or soccer. I want my boys (should I have any) to be tough, strong, and take-charge. I want them to have the smell and look of boys. On the other hand, I want my girls to be gentle, sweet-spirited, and decidedly girly. Somewhere along the way, it became a bad thing for a girl to be girly. It is my hope that Christians will reclaim this special space, and that we will raise our girls to be feminine, kind, and beautiful in mind, body, and soul. Our girls will be quite different than those around them, but isn’t that sort of the point of Christianity to begin with?

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Cultivating Femininity in Our Daughters: On Sports

I’m not sure how this blog series will be received. Like some of my past series on gender, it might arouse some ire. I’m at least hoping it will foster some discussion. Essentially, I want to look this week at how we can counteract the culture of egalitarianism and feminism and instill a sense of biblically informed femininity in our daughters. Today, I’m going to think through sports, and how involved girls should be in them.

To look at the culture is to gaze at egalitarianism largely recognized. In short, women do most everything men do. They fight, they police, they wrestle, they play all the same sports. Most of us, I think, don’t notice these changes. Many of us, after all, grew up in classrooms awash–if quietly so–in feminism and egalitarianism. We were taught that feminism–the movement to aggressively battle men for cultural space and reassert “rights”- and egalitarianism–the movement to abolish gender distinctions and allow men and women to function in the same social roles–were unquestionably right. The church did little to speak back to the culture. In some circles, especially fundamentalist churches, Christians did mount a backlash against feminism, albeit a defensive and often caustic one. In general, Christians have done a very poor job of making a case for biblical femininity, observing where society has departed from this standard, and then applying scriptural truth to womanhood. The results? Many Christian women live according to the same egalitarian principles that unsaved women do. This is a bad situation, one that requires serious thought and reflection.

In thinking through this issue, there won’t be alot of texts to support my conclusions, at least not explicitly. But that’s no excuse to not think through things. We constantly have to study the Bible and then attempt to apply it to our lives. The Bible, frankly, doesn’t say a great deal about a whole lot of things, but that doesn’t mean we don’t apply its principles to our lives and seek to fashion an ethic by which to live wisely. We do this constantly, on global warming, on banking, on fair trade, on raising children, on conducting church life, and so on. When it comes to girls and sports, then, I don’t have a text to point to. Neither do I think I need to. I am not preaching a sermon but simply attempting to spark some thought.

I would simply say, then, that I think it is best to not involve our daughters in contact sports and to leave such hobbies to boys. In my opinion, heavy contact sports do not befit femininity. Womanhood need not be weak or bereft of activity, but I think it best to lead our daughters away from sports like football, basketball, hockey, and lacrosse. Women were not made to be rugged and brutish, as men were. They were not made to bear the burdens that men were made to bear. Women were not called to go to war, to defend their home, and to cultivate great strength. Men, on the other hand, were called to all of these responsibilities. Men are called to be strong, to be tough, to have a rough-and-tumble mindset. We men ought not be fragile or delicate. We should be strong. Contact sports cultivate such a mindset and a disposition, and so it is best that men engage in them, and that women engage in other sports that allow them to compete, exercise, and have fun without the need to become brutish. We want to encourage femininity in women. We want women to be different from men. We do not want them to become egalitarian. We want our men to protect our women. It is best that we leave contact sports to men, in order that we might cultivate femininity that shines and sparkles and stands different from a culture in which women are encouraged to adopt masculine traits and attitudes. In a world infatuated with secular notions of womanhood, we need to stand up for biblical femininity. Sometimes, for a girl, that action means sitting down.

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The Christian’s Place in Society: Respectful and Law-Abiding

Selection from Romans 13:1-2

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

Later on in this same chapter the apostle Paul brings up the notion of “respect.” He encourages Christians to go beyond mere obedience to the law, and to adopt a posture of congeniality to one’s government and ruling officials (when possible). This is a simple but potent idea for the Christian. He is not simply to trudge about, following the rules of the state. He is to exude a healthy warmth for his country and locality and is to mark himself as one who strives to obey the law and his officials.

This section in Romans 13 comes immediately after a lengthy section on conformity to Christ. This shows us that one’s relationship to the law closely reflects our level of Christian maturity. Less mature believers show less respect for the law and the state. More mature believers show more mature respect for the state. One’s attitude to one’s government and one’s involvement in it is thus a much stronger indicator of our conformity to Christ than many Christians think. On a list of entities and groups to which we are to concern ourself, I think many of us would rank “respect for government” very far down–maybe number 15, or perhaps number 20. In the Bible, however, Paul’s section on government follows directly a more abstract section on Christian conformity, indicating to us that our attitude to the government and our conduct within society is far more tied to our level of godliness than we might think. In voting, obeying laws and rules, speaking well of our authorities, praying for them, paying our taxes fairly, and other such deeds, Christians show that we are a unique people, a people who honor our government and submit to it when it in turn honors and respects us.

The Christian, then, is to take pains to adopt a respectful attitude, even as he remembers his roles as hated citizen, gospel witness, and prophetic voice. The Christian in society does not choose one of these roles. Instead, he merges all of them, and seeks to fulfill all of them with courage and conviction. In this way, he mirrors his Savior, who paid His taxes, spoke the gospel, denounced individual and societal evil, and bore the hatred–and the sin–of wretched, fallen man on His cross of redemption.

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The Christian’s Place in Society: Respectful and Law-Abiding

Selection from Romans 13:1-2

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

Later on in this same chapter the apostle Paul brings up the notion of “respect.” He encourages Christians to go beyond mere obedience to the law, and to adopt a posture of congeniality to one’s government and ruling officials (when possible). This is a simple but potent idea for the Christian. He is not simply to trudge about, following the rules of the state. He is to exude a healthy warmth for his country and locality and is to mark himself as one who strives to obey the law and his officials.

This section in Romans 13 comes immediately after a lengthy section on conformity to Christ. This shows us that one’s relationship to the law closely reflects our level of Christian maturity. Less mature believers show less respect for the law and the state. More mature believers show more mature respect for the state. One’s attitude to one’s government and one’s involvement in it is thus a much stronger indicator of our conformity to Christ than many Christians think. On a list of entities and groups to which we are to concern ourself, I think many of us would rank “respect for government” very far down–maybe number 15, or perhaps number 20. In the Bible, however, Paul’s section on government follows directly a more abstract section on Christian conformity, indicating to us that our attitude to the government and our conduct within society is far more tied to our level of godliness than we might think. In voting, obeying laws and rules, speaking well of our authorities, praying for them, paying our taxes fairly, and other such deeds, Christians show that we are a unique people, a people who honor our government and submit to it when it in turn honors and respects us.

The Christian, then, is to take pains to adopt a respectful attitude, even as he remembers his roles as hated citizen, gospel witness, and prophetic voice. The Christian in society does not choose one of these roles. Instead, he merges all of them, and seeks to fulfill all of them with courage and conviction. In this way, he mirrors his Savior, who paid His taxes, spoke the gospel, denounced individual and societal evil, and bore the hatred–and the sin–of wretched, fallen man on His cross of redemption.

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The Christian’s Place in Society: Respectful and Law-Abiding

Selection from Romans 13:1-2

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

Later on in this same chapter the apostle Paul brings up the notion of “respect.” He encourages Christians to go beyond mere obedience to the law, and to adopt a posture of congeniality to one’s government and ruling officials (when possible). This is a simple but potent idea for the Christian. He is not simply to trudge about, following the rules of the state. He is to exude a healthy warmth for his country and locality and is to mark himself as one who strives to obey the law and his officials.

This section in Romans 13 comes immediately after a lengthy section on conformity to Christ. This shows us that one’s relationship to the law closely reflects our level of Christian maturity. Less mature believers show less respect for the law and the state. More mature believers show more mature respect for the state. One’s attitude to one’s government and one’s involvement in it is thus a much stronger indicator of our conformity to Christ than many Christians think. On a list of entities and groups to which we are to concern ourself, I think many of us would rank “respect for government” very far down–maybe number 15, or perhaps number 20. In the Bible, however, Paul’s section on government follows directly a more abstract section on Christian conformity, indicating to us that our attitude to the government and our conduct within society is far more tied to our level of godliness than we might think. In voting, obeying laws and rules, speaking well of our authorities, praying for them, paying our taxes fairly, and other such deeds, Christians show that we are a unique people, a people who honor our government and submit to it when it in turn honors and respects us.

The Christian, then, is to take pains to adopt a respectful attitude, even as he remembers his roles as hated citizen, gospel witness, and prophetic voice. The Christian in society does not choose one of these roles. Instead, he merges all of them, and seeks to fulfill all of them with courage and conviction. In this way, he mirrors his Savior, who paid His taxes, spoke the gospel, denounced individual and societal evil, and bore the hatred–and the sin–of wretched, fallen man on His cross of redemption.

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The Christian’s Place in Society: Prophets in Khakis and Skirts

Selection from Matthew 14:1-4

“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

The Christian in society must not conform to society but must seek to speak biblical truth in the cultural conversation. As far too many Christians did in the twentieth century, he cannot withdraw from society. He must speak the gospel to it. But he must also speak the truth of the Bible to it. He must engage the world by a simple process:

1) Know biblical teaching.
2) Know secular thinking.
3) Speak against secular thinking through biblical witness.

If such activity seems rather modern to you, it’s not at all. This is exactly what John the Baptist did in the selected passage above. He knew biblical teaching (that adultery was wrong); he observed secular behavior (Herod was committing adultery with Herodias); and he spoke against it. For this courageous, commendable action, John was imprisoned. His head was then cut off and brought as a party favor to Herodias. The Christian who speaks prophetically thus places himself in a place to be quite literally cut out of society.

Christians like Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Albert Mohler, men who speak prophetically to the culture, too often speak alone. Christians are not to allow social concerns to overwhelm gospel concerns. But neither are they to neglect social concerns. John the Baptist had a very important and significant ministry as the forerunner to Christ, but this did not stop him from speaking out against sin. But we should back up a bit here. Let’s think about this. Speaking out against social sins or particular sins of a prominent individual is itself a form of gospel witness. One is identifying sin, calling it what it is, directing public attention to it. This paves the way for a gospel witness. The gospel is two-sided, after all. We speak negatively first, showing men their sin and future damnation. We speak positively second, telling men of the great hope that is found in Christ. This is how the Old Testament prophets spoke, this is how John the Baptist spoke, this is how Christ spoke, this is how Paul spoke. This is how we should speak, and we should do so without fear for our lives or reputations. Only concern for God’s glory and the advancement of His Kingdom should fill our minds. Death and hatred will come–but so too will heaven, and a heavenly reward for faithfulness.

The Christian in society cannot conflate the gospel with political and social concerns. But neither can he neglect his role as a God-appointed prophet to the culture. He must speak the truth on matters just as John the Baptist did, identifying right and wrong and offering the gospel as the world’s only hope of salvation from its sin. He is not to speak only the gospel; he is not to lie low until it may be spoken; and he is not to speak to the world only through social ministries. He is to be John the Baptist to his office, to his child’s playgroup (speaking of mothers), to his bank teller, to his rec league friends, to his parents, to his children. When wrong is uttered, and foul ideas propagated, the Christian is to speak. Though believers do not wear the garb of John the Baptist, though they shave slightly more often, still the Christian is a prophet, albeit a prophet in khakis or a skirt.

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The Christian’s Place in Society: Prophets in Khakis and Skirts

Selection from Matthew 14:1-4

“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

The Christian in society must not conform to society but must seek to speak biblical truth in the cultural conversation. As far too many Christians did in the twentieth century, he cannot withdraw from society. He must speak the gospel to it. But he must also speak the truth of the Bible to it. He must engage the world by a simple process:

1) Know biblical teaching.
2) Know secular thinking.
3) Speak against secular thinking through biblical witness.

If such activity seems rather modern to you, it’s not at all. This is exactly what John the Baptist did in the selected passage above. He knew biblical teaching (that adultery was wrong); he observed secular behavior (Herod was committing adultery with Herodias); and he spoke against it. For this courageous, commendable action, John was imprisoned. His head was then cut off and brought as a party favor to Herodias. The Christian who speaks prophetically thus places himself in a place to be quite literally cut out of society.

Christians like Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Albert Mohler, men who speak prophetically to the culture, too often speak alone. Christians are not to allow social concerns to overwhelm gospel concerns. But neither are they to neglect social concerns. John the Baptist had a very important and significant ministry as the forerunner to Christ, but this did not stop him from speaking out against sin. But we should back up a bit here. Let’s think about this. Speaking out against social sins or particular sins of a prominent individual is itself a form of gospel witness. One is identifying sin, calling it what it is, directing public attention to it. This paves the way for a gospel witness. The gospel is two-sided, after all. We speak negatively first, showing men their sin and future damnation. We speak positively second, telling men of the great hope that is found in Christ. This is how the Old Testament prophets spoke, this is how John the Baptist spoke, this is how Christ spoke, this is how Paul spoke. This is how we should speak, and we should do so without fear for our lives or reputations. Only concern for God’s glory and the advancement of His Kingdom should fill our minds. Death and hatred will come–but so too will heaven, and a heavenly reward for faithfulness.

The Christian in society cannot conflate the gospel with political and social concerns. But neither can he neglect his role as a God-appointed prophet to the culture. He must speak the truth on matters just as John the Baptist did, identifying right and wrong and offering the gospel as the world’s only hope of salvation from its sin. He is not to speak only the gospel; he is not to lie low until it may be spoken; and he is not to speak to the world only through social ministries. He is to be John the Baptist to his office, to his child’s playgroup (speaking of mothers), to his bank teller, to his rec league friends, to his parents, to his children. When wrong is uttered, and foul ideas propagated, the Christian is to speak. Though believers do not wear the garb of John the Baptist, though they shave slightly more often, still the Christian is a prophet, albeit a prophet in khakis or a skirt.

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The Christian’s Place in Society: Prophets in Khakis and Skirts

Selection from Matthew 14:1-4

“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

The Christian in society must not conform to society but must seek to speak biblical truth in the cultural conversation. As far too many Christians did in the twentieth century, he cannot withdraw from society. He must speak the gospel to it. But he must also speak the truth of the Bible to it. He must engage the world by a simple process:

1) Know biblical teaching.
2) Know secular thinking.
3) Speak against secular thinking through biblical witness.

If such activity seems rather modern to you, it’s not at all. This is exactly what John the Baptist did in the selected passage above. He knew biblical teaching (that adultery was wrong); he observed secular behavior (Herod was committing adultery with Herodias); and he spoke against it. For this courageous, commendable action, John was imprisoned. His head was then cut off and brought as a party favor to Herodias. The Christian who speaks prophetically thus places himself in a place to be quite literally cut out of society.

Christians like Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, and Albert Mohler, men who speak prophetically to the culture, too often speak alone. Christians are not to allow social concerns to overwhelm gospel concerns. But neither are they to neglect social concerns. John the Baptist had a very important and significant ministry as the forerunner to Christ, but this did not stop him from speaking out against sin. But we should back up a bit here. Let’s think about this. Speaking out against social sins or particular sins of a prominent individual is itself a form of gospel witness. One is identifying sin, calling it what it is, directing public attention to it. This paves the way for a gospel witness. The gospel is two-sided, after all. We speak negatively first, showing men their sin and future damnation. We speak positively second, telling men of the great hope that is found in Christ. This is how the Old Testament prophets spoke, this is how John the Baptist spoke, this is how Christ spoke, this is how Paul spoke. This is how we should speak, and we should do so without fear for our lives or reputations. Only concern for God’s glory and the advancement of His Kingdom should fill our minds. Death and hatred will come–but so too will heaven, and a heavenly reward for faithfulness.

The Christian in society cannot conflate the gospel with political and social concerns. But neither can he neglect his role as a God-appointed prophet to the culture. He must speak the truth on matters just as John the Baptist did, identifying right and wrong and offering the gospel as the world’s only hope of salvation from its sin. He is not to speak only the gospel; he is not to lie low until it may be spoken; and he is not to speak to the world only through social ministries. He is to be John the Baptist to his office, to his child’s playgroup (speaking of mothers), to his bank teller, to his rec league friends, to his parents, to his children. When wrong is uttered, and foul ideas propagated, the Christian is to speak. Though believers do not wear the garb of John the Baptist, though they shave slightly more often, still the Christian is a prophet, albeit a prophet in khakis or a skirt.

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The Christian’s Place in Society: Salt, Light, and a Force for Good

Selections from Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

The Christian has a clear place in society. He is not to seek glory and honor for himself. He is not to simply scold the culture. He is to be a force for good. We deduce from this biblical teaching that we are not to separate from society but to plunge ourselves into it in order that our good works would show and the Father would be glorified.

Wherever the Christian is, you should see light. Wherever the Christian goes, you should taste salt. The life of a Christian should look and taste differently than the life of an unbeliever. Goodness, holiness, love, and conviction should emanate from the believer. Christians should pursue placement in all levels of society. We ought not to aim solely for the lower class, the middle class, or the upper class. We should come together as one diverse, glorious body on Sundays and then scatter all over the place throughout the week. As we go, we brace ourselves for hatred and condenscension, ugliness and awkwardness. If such elements are not in our life, we are not blessed, and we are not tasting like salt and looking like light. The Christian’s place in society is to do the work the Lord places before him. He need not worry over that work or see it as a subpar duty. The Lord calls few to ministry and many to non-ministerial vocations. It is His design to do so. So Christians should labor with joy in their callings, knowing that they have been placed in that post by God to be a light to their specific group of peers. It is essential that we grasp this notion of placement. God is sovereign, and so we do not “end up” in different places and jobs–we are placed there to smack of God.

The Christian’s calling to be a force for good necessarily involves the proclamation of the gospel, however. Believers rightly recognize that all work done for God’s glory is honoring to the Lord and thereby valuable, but they also realize that they were not saved simply to labor productively and cheerfully but to flood dark places with light. The light beams when the gospel is shared. It is right, then, that believers of all vocations and backgrounds actively work for the spread of the gospel. God places us in society, gives us diverse tasks and duties, and these are all good, but He also bids us share the gospel with the lost (Rom 10). Christians are right to witness on the weekend at the mall or on the beach, but in calling most of us to non-ministerial vocations the Lord has directly answered our prayers to be witnesses to the lost. Again, you are placed in your work for a reason. Your work is your mission field. Strive to be the best employee you can be, but strive with equal effort to be a faithful witness. The Christian’s place in society is always that of missionary, whether to elementary schools, to fellow stay-at-home moms, to corporate elites, or to construction workers. In all of these places and to all of these people, the Christian must look, and taste, different.

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