When Your Vocation Isn't Considered "Christian"

“Tell her to get out—she’ll sell her soul to the devil,”  was the response my mother got from a lawyer after telling him that I wanted to go into the legal field

I was offended.  I want to glorify God with all that I do in this life.  But, what happens when your field isn’t explicitly Christian?  What makes our vocation “Christian?”  As a college student with plans to go into law, these are difficult questions to answer.  Yet, these are questions that must be answered—not only for pre-law students, but also for any Christian readying themselves for the workplace.  

I believe that we’ve been looking at vocation the wrong way. The question should not be whether or not I can be a Christian lawyer, or if you can be a Christian doctor, a Christian writer, or a Christian secretary.  The question needs to be how can I not be a Christian [insert career of your choice here].  According to James Skillen, theologian and author, “There is no such thing as the secular.”  There is no part of both our lives and all of creation that Jesus is not sovereign over.  He is Lord over all, including all we do, and that includes our jobs.  

This idea is echoed by Michael Schutt in his book Redeeming Law. Schutt writes that we need “an approach that takes into account the Christian as a whole person—not disintegrated, compartmentalized, […]  The Christian of integrity is a man or woman who serves God with heart, soul, and mind in every calling in life." 

So what does this mean in terms of applying it to my own life?  I go to a Christian college. Ideas of “finding your calling” and “serving God in all that you do” run rampant on my campus. But what happens when I leave my bubble of Christianity to enter into the “soulless” field of law? 

I’m a 19 years old sophomore in college and part of me feels completely unqualified to answer these questions.  Why should you care about what I have to say when my parents still pay for my groceries?  I usually can’t decide what I should eat for breakfast every morning, let alone give you suggestions on how to approach the rest of your life.

When I sort out issues of justice in my mind, I know God finds pleasure in it.  I hear His affirmation during my internship at the public defender, where logging defendants into the computer feels like the most important thing I’ve ever done.  To seek justice in this world is my heart’s cry, and I’ve really never known anything else. And I know that I can be a Christian lawyer.  

Justice matters and government’s chief responsibility is to uphold public justice. Yes, justice desperately needs to be upheld throughout the world, but it also needs to be upheld here in our nation. My particular vocation is as a lawyer – but my common vocation, the vocation you and I share, is being a citizen, a member of a political community.

As a pre-law student, I’ve encountered the dichotomy between God’s principles and human law.  I know that God’s principles are higher than any fallible law humans come up with. Earlier this year I heard Supreme Court Justice Scalia talk about how his Catholic faith is separate from his rulings.  The Constitution comes first at work; the Bible comes first in the rest of his life.  I understand his thought process, but respectfully disagree. We can hold God preeminent while still excelling and serving the common good.   

“Certain industries might have a reputation for being less-than-ethical. We should know that when we’re considering our professional options or engaging in these businesses, that we’re going to encounter the darker sides of these occupations,” writes Elizabeth Knox in Faith Powered Profession

I’m not a lawyer yet; I haven’t been in the legal field besides being an intern at the public defender’s office. But I know to serve God in your field means to have integrity in the small and big things.  It means remembering that it’s God’s reputation on the line as well as yours.  It means being faithful in the small things— being honest about hours, respecting coworkers, and not cutting corners.  A lot of times though, we forget that we need to not only love God with all of our hearts, but our minds too.  As I muddle through different legal and political problems, I need to think about them through a Christian perspective.  To serve God means not only loving Him with our deeds, but also thinking about issues in a way that is pleasing and honoring to Him.

So I encourage you to seek the calling that God is leading you to. Ask yourself the hard questions.  You can be a Christian [insert your career].  “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire,” said St. Catherine of Siena.  Do not lose your curiosity; do not lose your heart’s cry.  

It may take a while to figure out what God wants you to do on this earth, or you may already know.  No matter the time or place, whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, or stay-at-home-parent; whether you’re 18 or 30; whether you have a high school diploma or a PhD; you can serve God through your vocation.  

To the man concerned about the status of my soul: Thank you for warning me about the perils of the legal field.  However, by the grace of God, I am confident that I will pursue my calling in order to serve Him with my actions, glorify Him with my gifts, and reflect Him through my vocation.  

-Analise Nuxoll is a sophomore political science major at Westmont College who enjoys reading, bike riding, and finding humor in daily life.