Olympics 2016 competitor, Maya DiRado, made a bold statement concerning her faith recently after finishing her performance in competitive swimming. She won a gold medal for the 200 backstroke in Rio. When interviewed by Yahoo! Sports, she said, “My God is powerful and in control, but I don’t think He cares whether I win.” Following up with this question, Christianity Today asked her what she thinks God does care about, to which she responded, “I think God cares about my soul and whether I’m bringing His love and mercy into the world. Can I be a loving, supportive teammate, and can I bless others around me in the same way God has been so generous with me?”
Maya’s wisdom captures Martin Luther’s theology of vocation. Luther describes vocations as “masks of God” in which He is hidden in the work to take care of His creation, including people. He takes care of our needs for good health through doctors. Although the doctor may not be Christian, He nonetheless works in their ability to heal people and take care of those who are ill. He takes care of our need for food through farmers and grocery stores. He takes care of our protection through law enforcement and the government. He takes care of children through parents. God is hidden in all these vocations and more. We often think of vocations as being our jobs, but we also have vocations in multiple social relationships—brother, sister, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, employee, etc. God certainly cares about her soul—and all our souls—in that He sent His only Son to die for our sins on the cross. As we grow in relationship with our Saviour, He shows us how to love our neighbour, one of those ways being vocation. The purpose of vocation is to love our neighbour.
The comment Maya made about bringing God’s love and mercy into the world through what she does is essentially the idea Luther was grasping in his theology on vocation. How we love our neighbour in our vocation is how we show God’s love and mercy. By knowing the generous love and mercy God has shown her, Maya pondered how she can exemplify this same love and mercy toward her teammates. This is how we all ought to ponder our own vocations, whatever they may be. How am I, Ricky, showing God’s love and mercy to my parents, my siblings, my professors, the people in my congregation, the stranger I run into on the street, my coworkers, the waitress who’s serving me, etc.? God doesn’t care about winning and losing in sports. He cares about our love for one another. In victory, we can show love and mercy to those who’ve lost with words of encouragement, respect, and admiration. In loss, we can show love and mercy in the same way in the humility that victory isn’t everything. Either way, God’s love is shown and Christ is glorified.