Yesterday evening's Christianity Explored group ended with a conversation about how the Holy Spirit helps us to be followers of the risen Lord. It is so easy to allow ourselves to believe that following Jesus must mean doing certain kinds of job or being involved in certain activities. As a priest, I don't think I'm a great example of the real challenge in following Jesus in society. I'm allowed and expected to talk about God and to do and say unusual things, counter cultural things.
The people who have the real challenge, and who need to know the presence and wisdom of the Holy Spirit as much as I do, are the followers who are called into secular work, and especially work that divides opinion, work that can be contentious. I have friends and parishioners involved in really challenging work. Scientists, for example, whose work might have to involve testing a drug on an animal. The results could save many lives, but the ethical maze is confusing, especially when other Christians are shouting with the animal rights protesters. It isn't black and white.
Politics isn't black and white either, local or national, and the constant juggling with ethical questions and decisions that affect lives is stressful for those who take it on.
I've been privileged to have more than one long conversation with people working in different parts of the defence industry as they considered the ethics of their work. They didn't give away any secrets! The mental pressure for defence workers of any kind is huge - none of them like the possibility that they may have had a hand in hurting or killing; the hope is always to save, to protect, to make things that will deter, not destroy. That is no secret.
It would be easy for a follower of Jesus to look at professions like these and to reject them as too difficult, too ethically challenging for a person whose rule of life is love. But I believe that these professions, and other difficult ones like them - law, policing, even the military - is exactly where followers of God need to be. Because when those difficult decisions have to be made, when the question is ethically difficult, that is precisely when the best answer will come from someone who isn't just deciding based on their own instincts or a personal moral code, but from someone whose decision is guided by the Holy Spirit of God.