After years of study I have finally completed my Masters degree and am back in the real world working.
Though I loved my study, I really do enjoy the challenge of working each day (though getting up early every morning sucks). I am someone who thrives on a challenge, on deadlines, and on getting paid! I am made for work it seems. I get a kick out of being depended on to get stuff done in time and I am very good at leaving work at work so I can spend time happily at home.
Being back in the work place has raised some interesting issues that I have not had to face in years. Studying theology meant that the majority of the people I saw everyday shared the same beliefs as me, if not the same doctrines, and I was reasonably certain that I could talk about my faith openly and honestly with any of them.
Being in the workplace doesn't offer such opportunities. I am NOT an evangelist. Going up to people and talking to them about Jesus is not one of my giftings. I am able to talk to them about their lives, their issues, their families, but when it comes to faith I get very uncomfortable. I am never sure what to say without offending people. I feel like I am being bigoted if I voice my feelings. I am not sure how to say that I don't agree with someone without coming across as a b***h.
I think my main issue is that I am a straight talker. I tend to tell it like it is. If I don't agree with you then I will say so. This doesn't lend itself well to situations where people of other faiths may take offense. Though it has its place, straight talk is not always welcome.
And so I find myself feeling embarrassed and awkward. Not because of my faith but because of my inability to vocalize it well to non-believers. Gimme a room full of Christians wanting to learn more about the Bible and I am away! But fill that same room with non-Christians and I break out in a cold sweat.
This leaves me in an interesting predicament. How do I as a Christian speak well about my faith in the workplace?
I have already meet a man from the Christadelphian sect/cult. He told me that Jesus is merely a man whom God has honoured above all others, but he is not God. Immediately I was thinking of all the correct theological answers to this statement. But the reality is that this man was raised in this faith and may not appreciate being told he is wrong. Not doubt he is already aware of what other Christians think about Jesus and is use to being told he is wrong. In this situation being silent was much more helpful than being....well....me.
So how does one be a Christian in a workplace filled with different faiths? Does my theological training simply go on the back burner to be used at home and at church only?
To put it simply, no. I did not study theology as a job but as something that impacts my whole life. It is part of my faith and as such impacts my entire life.
Instead of theology being put aside, what I need to do is put my outspokenness aside.
All Christians, not just me, need to learn when to speak and when to stay silent. We need wisdom to read a situation and know what would best serve the person we are talking to. Love is about catering to them, not about our own need to be proven right.
We also need to remember that it is our lives that speak for us. St. Francis of Assisi once said that Christians need to "preach the kingdom of God constantly, when necessary use words." What he meant was that in our actions, our love for others, our attitude towards our bosses, our ethic toward our work, the way we treat our team mates, it is in those things that our faith is made apparent to others. This isn't always easy. There are days when we don't feel very loving (6:30am everyday for me!) and it may not come through that we are any different from others. But with God's grace, and with the Spirit to strengthen us, we can endure all things.
So what does it mean to speak about my faith at work?
It means to sometimes just stop speaking.