For me, this year has been a season of pondering. Among other things, I’ve been drawn to think about modelling the Christian life, modelling Christ, to my colleagues (some of the only people with whom I can spend time with currently). Furthermore, under that surface, I have been carrying the weight of the fact that my colleagues do not yet know Jesus; they only know me… and is mine the plate to which the burden of their salvation falls?
I grew up in a church family, and have been involved in church for as long as I can remember. Kids’ groups, youth groups, festivals, serving on teams have always been the normal way of life for me, culminating in doing my university placements in church ministry. While this has afforded me many great things, there are two side effects that have left me somewhat unprepared. The first is I have only ever experienced sharing the gospel with those around me theoretically. We practised at church, and approached people in the street in prophetic workshops, but I can count on one hand the conversations about God I had with my non-Christian schoolfriends. Secondly, for the parts of my life where I have been passionate about reflecting Christ and sharing the gospel, all the people with whom I spent any length of time were Christians. Passion and opportunity had yet to coincide – until now.
This year is the first season of life where I am seeing non-Christians enough to get to know them. Some of the team love Jesus, but not the majority. And a few things have struck me about the dynamic. I had always thought that the difference between Jesus followers and the world would be far more stark – on the one side, people who were full of kindness and joy, grace and generous love, contrasted with the angry or frustrated, selfish, unkind. Not in a cartoonish and blatant sense, but in a far stronger sense than I have seen. Because the truth of it is, my colleagues are kind and generous, loving, good company who long to see Hailsham become a better place, who experience frustration and anger, or want to talk through stress, annoyance and upset – Christian and non-Christian alike. They are all human, which isn’t unreasonable!
But as I spend my days with these people who, all behave in a fairly similar way, it was a lot for me to process. How are we, the believers, modelling Christ to those around us? Have we grasped just how weighty the calling is for us to share the Good News? Where is the fruit that my practises had led me to expect? And, on harder days, I was guilty of wondering what was the point.
The reality is that coffee break conversations rarely open themselves up to the spiritual life, and far less so for me to utter the doctrine to which I hold, (despite practising it in under a minute as a teenager). Over the months, I felt such responsibility to my work friends, as if it all fell to me to save them. Throughout my spiritual journey, I have struggled to overcome the lie that I must always do my best, be my best, to achieve something on behalf of God. So, in the workplace, there was an apparent pressure to be the perfect model of a Good Christian, and perform my way into seeing them surrender their lives to Jesus. As I’ve wrestled and worried over this, I have prepared for God to agree with me that I was failing to live the way He wanted me to; instead He comforted me with the following truths:
This challenged me in the most comforting way possible. The joy, kindness, and generosity I saw in my colleagues was not emblematic of some earthly power, but instead of the goodness of God. He is goodness. It originates from Him. So, as unconscious image bearers of God, my colleagues have the capacity to convey a basic form of His goodness without knowing it. In fact, I could see the God’s heart to love some of the neediest in our town in them. God is so much closer and intertwined in my work than I had realised – Hallelujah!
2. God knows the heart (Matt 9:4)
Whilst all my workmates do good (and do it often), that is not the metric by which Christ sees us – if it were, we would all fall short of that mark. None of us can earn our way into his righteousness, but we are all welcome to receive it as the free gift that it is. So, even though we might all consider ourselves “good people” and choose to present ourselves as such, that does not diminish our need for Christ: quite the opposite. Ultimately who we truly are, in all its height and depth, is no secret to God. And in that He showers His lavish love and grace, and has offered us his righteousness in exchange for sin. I know I cannot earn my way into Jesus’ love, not with my ‘good’ works with young people, but also not in my ‘good’ efforts to evangelise our team. Additionally, they can do a lot of good for Hailsham without being absolved before Christ.
3. There is always hope
Just because my colleagues are not yet professing Christians, doesn’t mean they won’t be one day; rather than being overwhelmed by the task set before me, I can have hope. I can pray, I can express myself and my beliefs in small but undeniable ways, and can trust that the Holy Spirit is with me in the office and can to His leading. As Jesus sustains the world, holding every moment in history, giving me one breath after the other, so too He gives me moments to display His likeness.
These truths took me from a place of trying to achieve on God’s behalf in such a way that I was stressing myself into despair and doubt, to a freedom and worship that enables me to surrender to Jesus. I am going from being trapped by my thoughts to being freed by His ways. And I, just like every person, am still getting there. I still need His grace, His time, and His words. But not being crushed under stress has meant that I am able to act! God’s heart truly is so counter cultural, and counterintuitive to our human foibles! I have found that the stronger my trust is in Him, and the surer I am in the truth, the more often God comes up in conversation. By God’s grace, people ask questions when I am aware of His presence and strength – He always knows what He’s doing.
And I always remember, sometimes the word of God is as grand as “go to the lands that I will show you” (Gen 12:1) or “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:20), and sometimes as simple as “Go south to the desert road…go to that chariot and stand near it” (Acts 8:26-29). So God may be calling you to move in great ways to affect change in your workplace, or nudging you to simply offer a cuppa, and stay at a desk for longer than usual, waiting to see what He’ll do next. The modern workplace is brimming with opportunities for the Kingdom to break through, and God knowingly placed us there for such times as these. So, I hope you will join me in exploring all the great good that God has planned for our colleagues, and hold fast in the hope that one day they’ll join our journey shoulder to shoulder!