A number of my friends from seminary work in local churches, meaning their coworkers and bosses are fellow believers. A number of other friends, however, work in coffee shops, department stores, or in other non-religious occupations. One such friend recently asked how Christians in such positions can best represent Christ to their coworkers, specifically when lifestyles and ethical frameworks conflict. Today, I want to offer a few thoughts on the subject.
First, we need to recognize our call to be lights. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers,
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
By comparing believers to lights in the darkness, Jesus gives a clear picture of the way God can use the life of a believer to highlight truth. The light that shines in the darkness causes once-lost souls to shine as well, and those still in darkness must respond to the light. Some, sadly, turn away, but some are saved. We pray that God would use us to lead sinners to salvation as he used other believers to lead us, all for his glory.
Paul encouraged Titus to live in such a way, writing,
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Paul then connected this way of life to work, continuing,
Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our savior.
He roots these exhortations in the gospel of Jesus Christ, arguing that Christians so live because of what God has done in us (Titus 2:11-14). As Paul wrote elsewhere, we now work as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23). The work of God saves us and calls us to live differently in our world of work. Our motivation and our end reflect the change God brings, and the world around us takes notice.
We who know Christ, who seek to abide by his standard, often feel the urge to hold nonbelievers to the same standards, and for good reason. We understand that God will one day hold all people accountable for how they chose to live their lives, and we don’t want anyone to remain under God’s wrath when he offers his love freely. Yet we often misunderstand our role here, which leads to a second observation: we must recognize our call to be witnesses.
Jesus called his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [he has] commanded [them]” (see Matthew 28:18-20). Paul obeyed this command by proclaiming not “lofty speech or wisdom” but only “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Throughout the book of Acts, we see the people of God calling for repentance and faith from unbelievers. This model appears to save accountability to biblical ethics for those already in the fold, not for those without. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12).
What does this mean for those of us in the secular workspace? Simply this: our approach to unbelieving coworkers should be the same as our approach to all unbelievers. We ought to be shining the light of God through our lives as we seek opportunities to call the lost to be found and to find salvation from sin in Jesus. We who have tasted and seen the goodness of God speak of his goodness and invite others to taste and to see as well. We can speak of ethical ideals and highlight God’s standard, but we must first and foremost seek to make disciples.
These principles hold true for every believer, no matter where we work. We must shine brightly and share boldly. We must pray for the Spirit to sanctify the saved and to save the lost. And we must love as Jesus loved.
Thanks to Cory Jones for providing the prompt for today’s post.