Justin’s #51 – Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, Steven Garber, 256 pages

Can we know the world and love it? That’s the question that Steven Garber asks in this book, “Visions of Vocation.”

When I picked up this book, I thought it would have some good answers on what I should do with my life. Not that I need a ton of help on this question. But I’m pulled to the left and right of two extremes: my life’s purpose, I feel, is to enter into ministry but practically, the Marines make a lot of sense for now. This book wasn’t what I expected, but it was helpful.

Garber starts out with describing what pain and loss is. He makes clear that we are coddled here in the United States. We live very good lives and we are most of the time protected from how harsh the reality of life can be. When we do experience this reality, it can be a lot to take in. Knowledge in this way informs us about the world. And those with the greatest knowledge of what the world is truly like experience a greater degree of anguish and pain over its condition.

But those with the greatest knowledge also have a harder time in answering the question, “can we know the world and love it?” If you live in a box and have never experienced the hardships of the world, you can easily love it. It’s only when you break out of this that loving the world becomes problematic.

But there is some hope. We are naturally unlovable creatures. We hurt people and we are incredibly selfish. In our sinful condition, we are very unlovable. But Jesus Christ loved us even in this state. This was a bombshell for me, not because I didn’t know it: but because it became very real. If Jesus could love us in all our brokeness and sin, then why can’t we similarly love the world?

This isn’t a love of the world and what it can offer. Jesus spoke vociferously on this point, that he who loves the world cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. No, this love is having compassion and grace on others; a type of love that is not centered on the things of the world, but on the people.

Having first built this edifice, Garber turns to how we should respond to it. If you love the world, then you must do everything you can to help. And this is where vocation comes into play. There are those who are called to exotic places to love on people and spread the Gospel. Others are called to live on a farm and do well in this capacity. People are complex and there are a myriad of reasons why they chose certain occupations. Garber’s main thrust in the second half of the book is that if you know the world and can love it, do something meaningful with your life to help. The subtitle of this book was recited over and over and it is significant in understanding the latter half of the book: common grace for the common good.

This was a very interesting book and I don’t think I agree with everything that Steven Garber lays out, but it was a good reminder that wherever we are in life, we can make an impact for the kingdom.

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