Vocational Gratitude: Redemption

By Uli Chi

January 4, 2020

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:5 (NRSV)


When I started my business, I was driven by a compelling vision of what I wanted to create. I remember being inspired watching the classic movie, The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart. Although it was a fictional account of the famous bandleader’s discovery of the unique “sound” that characterized his jazz band in the first half of the 20th Century, I strongly resonated with the desire to discover – in my case – a distinctive “look and feel” for the software I wanted to design. That became the driving force behind my work.

Da Vinci’s Last Supper

Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Photo used by permission from Uli Chi.
All rights reserved.

As we are reminded again of Jesus’ coming into the world, I want to reflect on the distinctive vision and driving force behind God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ. What was the mindset that Jesus brought to his work in the world? And, what might that say to us about our work as leaders?

In recent devotionals, we’ve reflected first on the good world God has made in which we are called to work. As his image bearers, we are made to delight in our work in all its varied forms. But, sadly, that’s not the whole story. Instead, our vocation and work has been marred by humanity’s moral choices, including our own. We prize our autonomy over our image-of-God identity. To use biblical language, we worship “the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25 NRSV). We grasp for an illusion – that we can have life apart from the Source of Life. And consequently, we learn that when we reject the truth we get a lie, when we reject love we get fear, and when we reject life we get death.

So what is God’s response? Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden, which seems on the surface a harsh judgment, is actually an act of mercy. God doesn’t obliterate Adam and Eve or those who are their descendants. Neither does he negate their role as moral agents by declaring as it were, “it didn’t really matter.” Instead, God begins the very long and difficult journey in and through human history that climaxes in his coming in Jesus.

How does Jesus redeem the terrible consequences of humanity’s grasp for an illusion? To begin with, Jesus’ suffering and death on our behalf underscores the gravity of our role as God’s image bearers in the world. There are consequences to our decisions as human beings and someone has to bear them. Jesus singularly does this on humanity’s behalf. But, how does he do this without introducing the “moral hazard” I spoke of in my last reflection? Since Jesus has forgiven all my past, present and future sins, why doesn’t that make me more reckless about sin’s consequences?

For one, as Scripture regularly reminds us, sin is its own consequence. The illusion is still an illusion. Tragically, continuing to embrace a lie results in fear and death that are all too real. For another, God’s self-sacrificing love in Jesus, supremely demonstrated on the cross, creates a peculiar kind of obligation. The Apostle Paul called it the debt of love (Romans 13:8). It is the “debt” that sets us free, recalling who we are to be.

Jesus’ mindset – the distinctive vision and driving force behind his work – is to restore our intended role as image bearers of the One Living God, who love and work with the same extravagant grace and extraordinary humility that he does (Philippians 2:1-11). And, Christ’s suffering is an indication to us that our sufferings are also a part of our vocation and work in the world. The Apostle Paul says at one point to the Church in Colossae, “I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for (your sake)” (Colossians 1:24 NRSV). As we think about our work in leadership, this is a reminder that we contribute not only our competencies and capacities to our work but even our afflictions and adversities. As Kate Harris, Executive Director of the Fellows Initiative, has wisely said, “God uses our wounds as well as our gifts to heal the world.”

Something to Think About:

How might Jesus’ mindset for his work shape your work of leadership?

In what ways do you see your afflictions and adversities contributing to your work in the world? How might they help you bring healing to the world in and through your work?

How might you express your gratitude to God in the midst of your sufferings at work?


Living God, we are grateful that you did not abandon us in our grasp for the illusion of autonomy. And as those who have responsibility for others, we understand that our failures affect the lives and work of others. Thank you for showing us and, even more than that, for giving us a way back through Jesus.

Help us be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (Philippians 2:2 NRSV) with Jesus in our work.

We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Do Your Work in a Worthy Manner (Philippians 1:27–2:11)

Uli Chi

Board Member, Senior Fellow, Affiliate Professor

Dr. Uli Chi’s career is a testament to his unique approach to leadership. He has navigated the realms of for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, the theological academy, and the local church, gleaning a wealth of wisdom from each. As an award-winning technological entrepreneur, h...

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