“If the salt loses its saltiness, it’s good for nothing.”
The policy was given to me on my first day. It was part of a page excerpted from the personnel manual, labeled “Code of Conduct.” In stern language, the code enumerated things like tardiness, overtime, and dress standards.
But one line stood out in its frankness. I tried not to be insulted. “While we are tolerant of all beliefs, religious expressions are not tolerated in the workplace. “ For some reason it was in bold, while the other items like weapons, foul language, and assaults were in plain text.
I got the message. Of all the terrible things I could do at work, “religious expression” was probably the worst thing that could happen.
There’s a certain fear among managers, feuded by the Legal and Human Resources department about faith in the workplace. Somewhere, policy makers have perceptions of images of banners that say, “Turn or Burn” hanging from cubicles, exorcisms in the break room, and prayer circles outside the CEO’s office.
I wanted to scream. “It’s not that way with me!” I’m not Westboro Baptist Church. I’m not the person carrying around signs of fetuses. I’m not the person who is nailed to a cross and marched through the streets. But if they think I’m going to forget my faith in the workplace, laying aside my core just for the sake of the bottom line, that’s not going to happen. I’m not ashamed.
There’s no such thing as a private faith
The problem for the lifestyle follower of Christ, is that it’s not that easy to dissect a transformed life. There’s really no such thing as a private faith. If my heart is changed, so too is my passion. If my spirit is flipped, so too is my thought process. A true Christian always oozes it – the transformation cannot stay silent.
I think society – and the typical workplace – misunderstands people who are motivated by faith, believing that religion is more about traditional worship than transformation. My faith is less about church and more about the daily renewal of the mind that Paul talks about.
Jesus himself moved people away from simple religious tradition toward internal revival. He talked about religion as being empty, void, and not pleasing. He said, “Don’t follow their example.” Instead, he went straight for the change in heart, intent, and motivation.
Our right relationship isn’t just with God, but it’s a right relationship with the world around us. “Redemption” isn’t a word reserved for the preacher’s podium. It’s a word that describes our reconciliation with creation and the world around us. Following Christ is more than just an inward transformation, but a change in the way we work, the way we live our lives, and our place in the community of man. That’s why we are called out of the world and thrust into the world as emissaries, light bearers and salt shakers.
“The bad reputation of Christians can make people reserved,” said Bacote. “There are insufferable representatives of our faith. But they are the minority.”
He reminded me that there’s far more good that Christians bring to the world than bad. And that should be our story in the workplace. “We still need to have courage, even knowing that there might be a mixed reception.”
How can you change your workplace and not freak out Human Resources? Here’s a start:
Be genuine. People of faith are pure in their motives and dealings with others. They don’t put on airs or sniff the air for hints of sinful behavior.
Be hopeful. People of hope don’t lie about the reality of the world, but they are pressing on toward a new day. They inject positive direction in every dark situation.
Be righteous. People of the way speak impartiality into every situation. If there is deception, then we are the ones who need to speak out. If there is injustice, we are the ones who defend the innocent..
Be faithful.There is nothing worse than a person of faith who shows up late and isn’t a team player. You will be respected for your work ethic far before you are respected for your faith.
Be relational.Our faith isn’t always content oriented. It’s not about proof texts and apologetics. Most people come to Christ because someone loved them. And that is our highest calling in the workplace.
Originally published at Patheos.
Thanks to everyone who has invested in the Theology of Work Project! Thanks to your generosity, we were able to meet all our needs for 2017! We ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers and charitable giving in 2018 as we equip Christians to connect to God's purposes for work.