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Can I share with you something that I find weird about where we live?  

It’s the way people think about their workplace. I’m not thinking about how much we work (that’s a separate post!), but about what people want from their work environment.  

I’ve listened with curiosity as I’ve heard various people over the years talk about how they’re glad they now work for a “good Christian company”. People look for work environments where their co-workers won’t use profane language, where the only music that’s played is Chris Tomlin, and where we agree on everything (except maybe baptism or common grace).   

But is that really the right perspective to have? How important is it that we work in a “Christian” environment? I want to argue that it’s less important than many of us make it out to be and I want to challenge you—if you’re working in a difficult workplace—that perhaps this is where God wants you to continue to labor.  

Some Qualifications  

Let me give a few qualifications before I make my case.  

First, I am not saying it’s wrong to want to work with other Christians or to work for a company that has explicit Christian goals. I can think of a landscaping job that I had that was particularly encouraging to me because of the example and wisdom of my Christian boss. I’ve also worked at a pair of Christian bookstores where I was excited about connecting people with books to help them grow as Christians.  

Second, there may be times where it is necessary for a believer to remove themselves from a work environment because they are expected to act in sinful ways. For example, a work environment where an employer expects you to lie about facts or figures is one that you may need to leave.  

Third, sometimes it will be wise for a believer to remove themselves from a work environment because they do not have the spiritual maturity to resist temptations in the workplace. While we should ask God to strengthen us to resist sin, it may be that we are not yet in a place of spiritual strength to resist the allures of a worldly or hyper-sexualized workplace.  

Principles to Consider 

Yet, with those qualifications made, I want to you to consider: maybe God’s will for you is not to work for Christians and with Christians. Let me make five observations for your consideration:  

  1. Our perspective is shaped by our circumstances. We should begin by acknowledging that our perspective is informed by our circumstances; and our circumstances in West Michigan are not the norm. Many people in the world do not have the luxury of choosing whether they will work with fellow Christians or not. If you are a Christian in Canada, Scotland, Dubai, or Bangladesh, you may not have that choice!  

  2. Our perspective should be shaped by our exile status. We should approach our work remembering that we are currently spiritual exiles in the world (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). Rather than seeking to remove ourselves from hostile work environments, we should expect that such environments are often part of what it means to live as spiritual exiles. This is how the apostle Peter understands the Christian life. Peter’s worldview is shaped by the expectation that we live and work among pagans (1 Peter 2:12). As exiles, it means that employees will sometimes work for people who are hostile to us and to our beliefs as Christians. When Christians have unjust employers, Peter’s first advice is not to flee their employment, but to be subject to their employers and patiently endure. This is a gracious thing in the sight of God (1 Peter 2:18-25).  

  3. Our perspective should remember that not all suffering is bad. Sometimes it is appropriate to remove ourselves from situational suffering, if we can (e.g. taking medicine to relieve sickness, fleeing from danger). Yet not all suffering can or should be avoided. If we are ridiculed for our faith at work, the apostle Peter says this is actually a blessing (1 Peter 3:12-19). We experience a fellowship with Jesus in his sufferings. If we find it hard to work among people who are not Christians, perhaps God is using this hardship to discipline us and deepen our dependence upon Him.  

  4. Our perspective should be shaped by what God says (and doesn’t say) about our work. Ultimately, our work is done to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). The secondary purposes of work include serving our neighbor, providing for our daily needs (Genesis 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12), and enabling us to give to those who are in need (Ephesians 4:28). We are to work diligently and to please the Lord (Colossians 3:22-24) yet recognizing that in a fallen world our work is often difficult and frustrating (Genesis 3:17-19; Ecclesiastes 2:22-23). Work is not, however, presented as the primary context for our spiritual comfort or sustenance. That role belongs to the church. Those who work in non-Christian environments may find their appreciation for the church growing as they see the church as God’s appointed recharging station for sent and scattered saints.    

  5. Our perspective should be shaped by God’s mission. What if God put you in a job surrounded by non-Christians because He intends to bring salvation to your co-workers through you? What would it look like for us not to see our co-workers as threats to our faith, but lost people whom we look upon with Christ-like compassion (Luke 19:41-45)? We should ask God to help us view our work not as a spiritual minefield, but as a gospel mission field (for tips on how this might look like practically, I’d recommend this book).   

These observations won’t determine where you should work, but perhaps they’ll encourage you to rethink how you look at your current workplace.  

 

What I’m Listening To:  

One of my favorite pieces of music is St. John’s Passion by J. S. Bach. It’s a great listen leading up to Good Friday as Bach tells the story of Christ’s suffering from the Gospel of John.  

Meanwhile, if you appreciate St. John’s Passion, you may also want to watch this documentary on Bach’s life.  

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