2006-08-15 - Summer Questions
2006 #13 ~ Cruel Christians
1 Corinthians 12:27, "Now you are Chirst's body, and individually members of it."
Today's question: "I am having issues with co-workers who proclaim to be devout Christians, yet they are so mean and cruel. How is one supposed to cope on a day to day basis?"
I think this is a helpful question, and it applies to situations even outside of work. There are some general principles that we can look into, and then I will try to suggest some specific things you could do with a coworker or coworkers who claim to follow Christ, but don't seem to mirror that high calling.
The first thing we have to always keep in mind, when we have unpleasant run-ins with others who claim to follow Christ, is that we are all still in the process of being sanctified. I am sure that you don't want to hear this, but it is a true statement that some of the problems could come from your end. I don't know any more than you wrote, but we have to remember, even when we see sin in others, that we also are sinners and we view sin, in ourselves and others, through a mindset and heart that are still seeking to overcome sin. This should help us to seek to be gracious to the person, or persons, in hopes that they will be gracious to us when aspects of our remaining sin flare up.
But graciousness is also something that Christ has left us as an example, and we should seek to emulate His example. As He dealt with others who were mired in sin, He dealt with the issues in a loving and gracious manner. I don't want to say that the problem is you; rather I think the first place we are to start is in examining our own heart, to see if there is a plank in our eye, before we try to flick off the speck that is in another's eye.
Another consideration that we have to put forward is that other Christians don't necessarily view things respecting our faith and practice in the same manner that we do. That which bothers one person's conscience many not even prick, in the least, another's. We all have different understandings of the faith, and different perspectives on how we should follow it. Many Christians believe that the ten commandments still apply today, and will not work or patronize a business on Lord's Day. Others go out to lunch at a local restaurant after church and never think twice about it. The perspective among Christians as to what is acceptable practice and unacceptable practice can run quite a range. We have to remember that as we deal with other believers, and as stated above, we need to practice being gracious to those who name the name of Christ, but may not see things the same way we do.
But let us move forward and say that there are real problems here, and there is real sin. Some sins are quite clear and need to be confronted. If your coworker is a local church Elder but organizes a night with the guys at the local strip club on Friday nights, he needs to be confronted, and you should also contact his church. However, most workplace conflicts are not so black and white. Most have to do with how one worker is treating another, and there are many Christians who check their faith at the door, and while they work are completely different people than you would encounter outside of the workplace. This is easy to justify as "professionalism," or simply the mindset that faith and work don't or shouldn't mix. For the Christian, they should mix, and Christians should seek to apply their faith at work, and all areas of their life. If Christians faithfully applied their faith in their work, I have no doubt that we would be known as the most desirable people group that employers would seek.
There are some things that you can do with others at work who claim to be followers of Christ. It might involve taking some risk on your part, but in the end, I think that you will find the benefits outweigh the initial awkwardness of making an effort. I also believe that you can apply these things with coworkers, regardless of the position each of you hold. The fact that each of you claim to follow Christ is enough in common to get together and pray with one another about the things that surround your workplace. Prayer is not only pleasing to the Lord, but generates a bond of fellowship with one another that could really ease workplace tensions. If you can't find a time when you both can break away and pray together, try memorizing a verse together each week, and quiz each other on how you are both doing during the week.
Outside of work, you could invite them (and their family) over for dinner one night and simply fellowship as fellow believers. You can take an interest in their lives by asking questions about their church, how they are involved, or what they really enjoy about the worship service. Ask them what is the best practical faith-oriented book they have read in the last few months, get a copy and read it, and as you read it, thank them for the recommendation while telling them the points that you have really found helpful.
The emphasis that I would place is that it is important to seek to have unity with those who share with you forgiveness of sin in Christ. It may be that your efforts are rebuffed, and you may have to take the high road, by taking the servant's road. Tell them that it would be good for you to have a prayer partner at work. Take the burden off them. It may be that nothing comes of it, but you will never know, if your don't put forth the effort.
It is sad, and it is a poor witness, when Christians don't get along in the workplace. It is also all too common. The worst thing we can do is seek to make another look bad to our fellow workers. It destroys both our witness and the witness of the other person. Let us seek to build each other up in the faith, learn from one another, and taking everything to the Word of God in prayer, seek to live in fellowship and harmony with those who are resting in the same mercy and grace that we have placed all our hope and trust in.
Soli Deo Gloria,