Friday, November 6, 2009

Persecution or Stupidity – 1 Peter 2:18-20

Servants, you must respect your masters and do whatever they tell you-not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are tough and cruel. Praise the Lord if you are punished for doing right! Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong; but if you do right and suffer for it, and are patient beneath the blows, God is well pleased. (TLB)

This must be one of the most quoted Bible verse for employer-employee relationships. Now that I’m self-employed, I only have one boss, Jesus. Well, actually I now work for several people – clients and customers. While working for a company, if I had thought of my employer as a customer for my services, there wouldn’t be much difference.

Sometimes, a difficult part of working for others is telling them that what they are asking you to do isn’t necessarily in their best interests. At these times it can seem that they are not kind or reasonable. However, if I’m doing my best to do what is right, I’ll have to trust the Lord that the end results will be good.

I’ll digress a bit because many people use these verses to claim that they are suffering for Christ in the workplace when they are simply being punished for doing wrong. The usual complaint comes when a Christian shares some nuggets of faith with another co-worker or even a client during work time. The boss or other employee’s overhear or are the subject of the sharing and complain to management. The boss then reprimands the Christian for engaging in non-work activities and the Christian tells everyone that he or she is suffering for Christ.

Not so. I am not being paid to share Jesus with others during work time. I’m being paid to do my work. It doesn’t matter that the person in the next cube or workstation is talking about last night’s football game or anything else. It doesn’t give me the right to steal time from my employer. The idea is that I have to live a life that will silence the talk of foolish men as Peter stated before.

So when can I share the Gospel with someone at work? There are breaks and lunch when you can do it if you are not violating common sense and company policy. It is one thing to know how to engage a person in spiritual conversations that lead to sharing Jesus and it is another to buttonhole a person on break and back them into a corner. The first is Spirit led and the second is worldly passion. Handing out tracts is usually against company policy – they consider that soliciting even though you aren’t selling anything.

With all that said, there are laws that protect you at the workplace and you should know them as well. In general, your employer can’t tell you not to wear Christian jewelry when others can wear jewelry. They can’t prohibit having a Bible on your desk if others can have non-work related books. The same goes for mottos, calendars, and pictures.

In my work career, I only had one run-in with personnel over Christian witnessing. A co-worker and I were asked by another co-worker if we would talk to her about Christianity. We agreed and set up a time in the cafeteria during lunch. A few days later, my boss told me personnel had informed him to reprimand me for proselytizing. My co-worker had the same conversation with her boss. We wracked our brains and realized that the lunchroom meeting was the only thing that could have been construed as proselytizing so we ask the woman if she had complained. She assured us that she hadn’t.

Armed with that knowledge we requested and audience with personnel and we were told we had violated company policy by trying to find out who had accused us even though that person had not filed the complaint. At that point I assured the personnel representative that I knew my rights and she had violated them by accusing us without proper investigation. That ended the matter and nothing was ever placed in my record or on my performance reviews. The person we shared with later discovered that a third party had reported us to her boss based on seeing us together in the lunchroom.

If, in that situation, we had been reprimanded, pay docked, or anything else, then we would have known that it pleased God. If we had really violated company policy in our attempts to witness, then God would not have been pleased.

I’m afraid that there are too many cases when Christians are poor workers or do stupid things and then claim to be suffering for Christ when they lose their job or are passed over for promotion. I pray that it happens less and less.

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