Xiamen, Fujian Province
Picture: Two fridges on a motorbike. I took this picture in Zhang Zhou Gang, where I work. Many times this is what we do to each other, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in the workplace. God is calling us as Christians to bring His perspective back to our work, and the way we treat each other.
As the church we have a very powerful purpose in our workplaces here on earth – and that is to bring God into those workplaces. That may not seem like a new thought to many Christians, but for many Christians, that simply means “witnessing” to people at work – which in turn for them means trying to get the people at their workplaces saved.
I am not saying that this is wrong – I just want to point out that I believe that the idea of bringing God into our workplaces can be a much richer thought than that.
“You have heard it that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mat 5:43-45 NIV)
We live in a world that breaks people. Most of us have had enough hurting experiences by the time we arrive at our first day at work, that we have some pretty sharp edges, and some pretty raw spots where pieces of our lives have been broken and shattered. So we arrive at work broken, we bring our brokenness into the workplace, and we break each other. When someone gets close to our raw spots, we tend to be quick to bring out the sharp edges. We learn to protect ourselves from our enemies. If we had grown up in a Christian environment we already know to not call it “hate,” but we know that there are some people at work that are better treated with the sharp edges at the ready, than with the sensitive spots exposed.
In the above verse, Jesus is calling us to be the buffers in the workplace – to absorb the effects of the brokenness around us. Instead of reacting by returning a stab with a stab, He calls us to love those who stab us. Instead of persecuting back, or going into patterns of blaming and self-protection, to pray.
The consequence of broken people building organisations, is that in the way our workplaces work, even in the very structure and many of the fundamental philosophies related to work, there are things that at least detract from people their full potential, and in many cases directly sabotages any possibility of their ever coming even close to working in their full potential.
There are many examples of how our brokenness breaks others. An overbearing boss is a broken person who brings brokenness into the lives of others. A broken employee creates brokenness in the team, often driving up the stress levels of the team leader to breaking point. A company that is dysfunctional in some way, and having to retrench employees because it cannot cope with the changes in the environment, is bringing financial brokenness into the lives of many people, and very often in the process also brings emotional and mental brokenness.
Furthermore, these broken workplaces, through misplaced priorities and values, often end up breaking the very environment on which their survival depends. Instead of organisations being the mechanism through which we, through combined effort, restore God’s creation, it becomes the mechanism through which we, parasitically, consume creation, and then thoughtlessly discard the remnants.
What is the purpose of our organisations from a Christian perspective? It is to be a place where people come to work. That seems simplistic, but not when we get a Christian perspective on the purpose of work. So what is the purpose of work? Work should serve several purposes: It should provide every man and woman with the dignity of being able to earn a living in a dignified way. It should contribute to a meaningful expression of our identity, and opportunity for growth and development.
Work is a place where we can coordinate and integrate and combine the gifts, interests and passions that God has put inside each of us, to be a blessing to each other and to the world – of which a significant part in modern society is returning healthy profits to investors and our economies. Work is to know, and live out God’s purpose for us in this creation, and to receive in return all the blessings related to that. When God created us and gave us the command to “work the earth,” he made work a core aspect of our identity as part of a creation that was created to be a symphony of worship. So if the workplace is where people come to work – then the workplace is to be a place where we give and experience and receive some of the greatest blessings related to being human on earth.
Focusing on the church, the devil can maybe bring destruction into a small percentage of the world’s population. But by breaking our workplaces the enemy has succeeded in bringing emotional, mental and spiritual destruction into the life of every working person, and from that many people carry those frustrations home, where they, in turn, break their family members, including their children who grow up to be broken people in broken workplaces.
As Christians, we have a critical role in breaking this cycle: To bring healing into the workplace; to be the person that treats others as God would have treated them. We are to find ways to help people live out their fullest potential and grow into becoming all that God has designed for them to be. By making sure we always bring more value than we consume, we are to help our organisations succeed to become beacons of God’s abundance, and to never become the source of financial destruction in the lives of people through retrenchments, or even worse, through bankruptcy that knocks on to suppliers and clients in our chain.
We may not all be in leadership positions where we directly can influence all of this. But each of us can contribute where we are. Be the employee that makes your boss’s life a bit easier, and that contributes more to your team than what you take out. Be the team member that responds and reacts in ways that bring encouragement and healing, rather than criticism and further brokenness. Be the boss that provides a place where people can experience the healing of a safe, encouraging environment, where they can discover and develop themselves to their full potential.
We may not all be called to preach the gospel, or even to be very good at it, in our workplaces, but we can all seek to be God’s hands and feet in our day to day work – to be His Healing in every interaction that we are involved in.
Bring God into your workplace.
Blessings to you!
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Xiamen, Fujian Province