In my last article, “How Our Work Shapes Us“, I talked about the power of work and a workplace to influence us, sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively. We can be subtly conformed to the culture around us, as Paul warns in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
How can we resist those forces seeking to change us?
How can we work with God and his Spirit to be transformed?
How can we take up the role of Jesus in being agents of reconciliation?
How can we have our affections stirred, even as we work in an environment that does not honour Christ?
I think the key is for us to see ourselves as God’s ambassadors wherever we are.We can practise this role of reconciliation in whatever we do. 2nd Corinthians 5:16–20 reads:
So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
Firstly, we realise that we are already a new creation in Christ, so we should expect to live, work and think differently. We should embrace the fact that being a Christian makes us different, not compromising our values to fit in.
Secondly, we can ask God to reveal to us what he is already doing in our workplaces. Sometimes we imagine that we are the only Christian person or influence in a workplace, but we forget that Jesus is sovereign over all things, and in Jesus all things hang together (Colossians 1:17–18). God is “making his appeal through us” but he has already prepared the way for us.
God is “reconciling the world to himself” (cf. Colossians 1:19–20) so we should see our work as important to God. God is working to sustain his creation until Jesus’ return, and we are part of that process through our daily working. Whatever we do can be seen as part of that process.
Further, as agents of reconciliation, we should be creative in making things whole again, making things right. This means doing what we can to hold back evil and to promote good.
I have a friend who worked in an industry where many of the activities were the antithesis of Christian values. There was corruption and bribery, sexual favours and subtle forms of abuse. Through a gradual process, he established relationships of trust and chipped away at the poor practices to establish positive working relationships and a work culture based on truth, integrity and grace.
It took much persistence and prayer, but it worked. Eventually, his opponents recognised the positives of what had been achieved.
On a much smaller scale, but no less important, I have a friend who enhances beauty in her workplace, promotes conversation, is available to work colleagues and offers hospitality to customers and clients.
Both these friends recognise that they are working with God to give people a foretaste of the kingdom. That means that their faith is growing as they are in the workplace.
Next time, we will look at how we can work for God so that our working becomes a place where God’s kingdom is established.
Kara Martin is Project Leader with Seed (seed.org.au), lecturer with Mary Andrews College (mac.edu.au) and author of the forthcoming book Workship: How to use your working to worship God.