Given the dynamics of the information age and ever-accelerating globalization, humanity faces a variety of new opportunities and challenges when it comes to creating, collaborating, and consuming alongside those from vastly different contexts.
Although Pentecost Sunday has already past, Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong wrote some related reflections on this very question, particularly as it relates to Christian vocation. As Yong notes, “location and situatedness matter, and do so across many registers — religious/theological, ideological, socio-economic, political, educational, linguistic, geographical, cultural, ethnic, racial, and experiential.”
Globalization has been a blessing for many, yet for Christians, it raises the question of what role the Gospel plays as we engage with and bear witness to our brothers and sisters across the world. As Yong asks: “How then do we not only make sense of our lives but also bear adequate vocational witness in our pluralistic age?”
The answer, he continues, can be found at Pentecost:
A look backward to the biblical day of Pentecost event might help us understand the polyphony of our world and empower wise witness in the public sphere. What I am referring to is the remarkable phenomenon of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring “on all flesh” (Acts 2:17b) that both empowered the diversity of tongues (Acts 2:2-11) and simultaneously precipitated the declaration of “God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11b). From this, we see that the multiplicity of voices is not in and of itself a problem; in fact, such plurivocity may well be a work of the Spirit of God in the present time. It is precisely in and through the many tongues of Pentecost that the glory of God is both manifested and mediated.
Yong goes on to offer some practical advice, emphasizing the importance treating our distant neighbors as equals while also acknowledging and appreciating the various distinctions that ought to remain. Even further, as we continue to create, collaborate, and consume alongside diverse persons and across increasingly widespread geographic and cultural landscapes, we ought to be oriented in a way that is open to Spirit-led challenge and transformation throughout our activities.
The Holy Spirit calls specific people to specific tasks, which will yield a beautiful diversity of contributions and exchanges across social, economic, and cultural lines. Yet throughout this diversity, the Spirit also unifies, enriching and transforming God’s people in profoundly mysterious ways:
Our pursuits of genuine, open relationships with others will certainly influence us but also be a possible catalyst for others to reconsider who they themselves are. This results not just from the mutuality that characterizes all authentic relationships but also from the fact that, as Christians who are shaped deeply by the image of God in Christ, finally our witness will be, as it was on the Day of Pentecost, both cruciform and theocentric. It may even involve a parting of ways.
But the promise of Pentecost is at least threefold: 1) we will be able to bear adequate witness to the living God in surprising relationship to others; 2) others may well be invited to repent and reconsider their life trajectories in light of our relationship; and 3) whether or not that happens, there is no relationship in the Spirit of Christ that will not also transform us in the process.
Although folks like Yong and Dr. Charlie Self have begun to explore these areas as it relates to vocation, there remains a significant gap in the faith-work conversation when it comes to the role of the Holy Spirit in coordinating and connecting human action.
Jesus called us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and working in the service of others is a big part of that witness. As globalization and interconnectedness increase — as we continue to innovate, collaborate, and trade with new partners from new perspectives — the church should be acutely aware of and in eager anticipation of the mysterious and unifying work of the Spirit throughout the process.
Dr. Self provides here a vivid picture of what it looks like for followers of Jesus to take the Great Commandment and the Great Commission seriously in the context of their own local communities.