“Jesse James used a gun.”
“…I’m sorry, what?”
“JESSE. JAMES. USED. A GUN.”
Points to coffee menu: “Jesse James used a gun to rob people. You just use this little sign.”
Just another day at the cafe. Another customer who “can get coffee way cheaper at the 7-Eleven across the street.” Another bit of polite laughter, another fake smile to hide the fact that I truly wish he would go bless the good people of 7-Eleven with his presence. In the small cafe where I work I meet all sorts of people. Some are a little more trying than others, and some days are easier than others. But each person who walks through the door and into my world is a unique soul who brings with him an opportunity to share the love of Christ.
Christ in the Workplace
The workplace is one of the most accessible places to share the gospel. Ironically, it’s also one of the hardest and most overlooked places to witness. We tend to separate our work lives from our ‘real lives.’ We go to work, do our job, clock out, do life for a few hours, and the next morning we start it all over again. So many opportunities are wasted as one person after another walks into our lives and then back out again without gaining anything from their short interaction with us. We’re so busy ‘just doing our jobs’ that we neglect the Kingdom work to which we’ve been called.
So how do we use our jobs to do Christ’s work? Although I’m writing this article, I don’t claim to be an expert. My job experience is limited at best, as I’ve only done the typical Mennonite bakery and cafe gigs. But hopefully the things I’ve learned can apply to a wider spectrum of careers.
Just Say Something
Coworkers: these are the people we see every day, the people we have some kind of relationship with. They see our attitudes and the way we react to challenges; the good, the bad, and the ugly. This group is both the easiest and the hardest to witness to at work. They are easier because there is a relationship. You can build up respect and trust. Witnessing can be a more gradual process because you will see them day after day.
Yet they are hard for that very reason. If I share with them and they shut me down and reject my message, I have to see them again tomorrow. Things might be awkward.
And so we sit around and wait for the “right time” to talk to them, a time when the conversation naturally leads to our faith, when we know exactly what to say. But that time rarely comes. Even if they open the conversation to religion, we are afraid to go there. What if I say the wrong thing? What if they ask a question I can’t answer?
When I was 19 and working my first ‘real’ job I had a coworker who liked to talk about anything and everything. One day something led him to declare “Well, I’m a Christ-ian.” Someone asked him what he meant by that and he replied, “I believe in the words of Christ, but not the rest of the Bible. It’s pro-slavery and anti-adultery.” I remember standing there thinking what a ridiculous statement that was. It didn’t even make sense.
But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t take that opportunity to open a discussion about Christianity. I was shy and scared and I didn’t know what to say. And I still regret that. Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it probably won’t come.
Working with Joy
We can also reflect Christ in the way that we work. One thing I’ve noticed in my experience is that selfishness runs rampant in the workplace. Even when you’re working with Christians. Everybody wants to get their job done so they can move on to real life. We get so caught up in our little worlds, in the importance of our own agendas, that we sacrifice our coworkers. We say, “Well so-and-so slacked on that one thing last week, so he can pick up for me today. After all, I was planning to study my Sunday School lesson this evening after I go out with my friends, and if I don’t get off early enough then I won’t have time to study. It’s my Christian duty to slack a little.” This kind of attitude only breeds frustration and strife.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”1 Are these things present in your workplace? Rather than taking shortcuts, we should be willing to go the extra mile. To stay a little late to help someone who is behind on their work, to risk being taken advantage of. To give up our own leisure time for the sake of others. We should do our own jobs to the very best of our ability, with joy rather than complaining, because there is joy in knowing that we are following the example of Christ.
Bless and Do Not Curse
We can also show Christ to the people that we are serving — customers, clients, students, patients, etc. Many of the people that we serve through our jobs are unbelievers. What do they see during their brief interactions with us? When things are overwhelming and we’re feeling stressed do they see Christ? How do we react when they are being really difficult or rude?
The conversation at the beginning of this article sticks in my memory as one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had with a customer. This man began griping about prices the moment he walked in and then proceeded to try to convince me to buy his coffee for him, ask how much money I make, and flat out refuse to pay the posted price. He got more obnoxious with each passing minute and by the time I finally pried the correct amount of money out of his fingers, the friendly smile and indulgent chuckles had long faded along with my patience. I made a snippy comment, stared at him without a hint of warmth and said a robotic “have a nice day,” then turned on my heel and marched away. I was not feeling very Christ-like and it showed.
I’m pretty sure that man didn’t walk away thinking, “Wow, that girl really had a kind smile and a good attitude. Something seems different about her. She’s obviously religious — Amish, I think — maybe that’s where her sense of peace and joy comes from. I could use some of that in my life….” That was a great opportunity to find joy in the midst of suffering and to share Christ with my persecutor, and I missed it. It’s so tempting to give in to frustration and anger in those moments, but those are the times it’s most important that we don’t. Our reactions to aggravating situations speak volumes to the world.
To the Glory of God
So who are you reflecting at you job? Do the people you work with and for see Christ through you? The workplace is an incredible mission field that many believers completely ignore. God has called each one of us to represent and glorify Him in everything that we do, even our mundane jobs. I obviously fail way too often, yet God gives me new opportunities every day. Let’s seize those opportunities and allow Christ to work in the workplace.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”2
|Carmen Yoder lives in New Paris, Indiana. She works part-time at a cafe, where she enjoys making messes (which she cleans) and chatting with “the regulars.” Her spare time is usually spent reading, entertaining her siblings, adventuring, drinking coffee, or criticizing [she means proofreading] Radi-Call articles. She loves beauty, especially that of God’s creation, different cultures, fellowship, music, and laughter. She desires to live life to the fullest and serve God in any way He calls her.
1 Peter 3:8, ESV
1 Corinthians 10:31