Part II of this series ended with this statement:
So our first question—does time dedicated to working in the secular world endanger our souls?—is answered by Gregory like this: the active life of service may serve as handmaiden to the contemplative life – and the contemplative to the active, in return.
Sadly, medievals did not always remember this insight, tending to return to the old elevation of the monastic life above the ordinary life. This was one reason Martin Luther found himself, in the 16th century, needing to recover the God-givenness of bakers baking and tailors sewing and fathers changing their infants’ diapers.
On Luther, more later. But now another challenging question arises in our complex, post-Christian workplaces full of real, fallen people:
2. Does practicing the virtues demanded by the working life (such as industriousness, self-control, service to others, obedience to rules and leaders) reduce us to drones or pawns in exploitive structures of modern work? Or, Does becoming a good Christian worker mean sacrificing social conscience for placid obedience—prophetic witness for financial security?
To help us answer this, we turn to our second past leader, England’s 18th-century evangelical pioneer, John Wesley.
Anyone remember the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics? As the spectacle started, before millions of worldwide viewers, England’s pastoral island paradise rose slowly into view from below ground, to the wafting strains of British composer Edward Elgar.
But then – suddenly – the paradise was shattered.Continue reading