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Being a Priest and Programming

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Warning: this post may contain theology and other non-programming related material. You have been warned…

Our church started a new sermon series last week, and as the sermon was going on various other bits and pieces came together in my mind, and I knew that I was going to have to at least try and get them down in writing or they were going to run around my head for the next few days.

It comes up regularly for us as Christians that God isn't small enough to be contained to Sunday mornings - he wants a larger part of our lives than that, in fact the central part. But the idea of worshipping God with your whole life often begins to get a bit weird when you actually stop and think about it. Worship ('to assign worth to something') is not a strange idea to any of us, although we might not use that language - I'm sure you can all think of a respected author, favourite footballer or awe inspiring musician. And if you buy into the whole Christian idea of who and what God is (infinitely powerful and awesomely loving, perfect judge who offers grace, amazing sense of humour) then the idea that a Christian is going to worship God also shouldn't seem that strange.

But with your whole life? There's no doubt biblically or in the teachings of both Christian teachers and Jewish tradition that this is precisely what is expected of us. But… when you write computer code as a day job, what does that actually mean?

And then it struck me. It means being a Michael Meeks or a Jon Skeet. Probably not in the specific details - I've not met either of them personally, but in the attitude they show to life and the people around them. If you're not in the programming field (probably, if you don't happen to be in a similar area of the programming field to me…) you're not likely to have heard of them. But they've both developed an enormous amount of respect in a field that is frequently full of highly opinionated staunch atheists while being openly professing Christians.

So we wrap round to where we started - the idea from 1 Peter of all Christians being priests. (I'm not using the term here in the catholic sense, so bear with me…). This comes up a lot when people relate one of the core Christian doctrines - that people who have come into a relation with Christ can come directly to God without an intermediary. But that wasn't the only role of priests in the Old Testament. Yes, they were the only people who could enter God's presence… but they weren't only going there for themselves. They were the intermediaries, 'introducing' others to God's presence, carrying blessings from God to them and petitions from them to God.

Jon and Michael are dedicated to what they do, they are good at it and they are 'graceful'. In the sense that they treat the people around them with respect and as professionals, teaching and helping without regard to the others faith and without forcing argument and discussion where it's not wanted. Both are obviously willing to talk to people who want to (Michael even links to a fun page on Christian Think Tank for those who are interested), but there isn't a pressure there.

And maybe that's what some small part of everyday worship looks like; I can't help feeling that by being respectable (in the sense of, worthy of some respect) and making the fact of their faith public, people like Jon and Michael have been doing their bit to draw others closer to this God I worship. They've caused a doubt and a second look at what faith really means in the mind of those who would otherwise live in an atheist bubble, carelessly dismissing the idea of God as the ramblings of the obviously stupid and insane. Because these men are clearly neither.

This is encouraging to me, and I hope to a lot of out there who go to work, work hard and tell people that you made it to church this Sunday. Because if you look around you'll probably begin to see these people around you, the Jons and Michaels who are making a difference just by living a life based on Christ's in the everyday.

And guess what? If you're a Christian, letting people know without pressure and getting your coding/plumbing/teaching/building/etc. done you're probably making a difference too. You might be the last to see it, but I'm sure others do.

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