Month: February 2017

Taking Your Faith to Work

Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Exec. Director

“Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly in anyplace: on the street in a city, or during work, or in a city square, or on a journey.” -Pope Francis, from Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), No. 127.

I take a lot of things to work each day.  Most days I carry my laptop.  It’s a very portable workstation that contains a lot of my work and projects.  I also take my cell phone to work each day.  How would any of us survive without the ability to have our contacts, emails, and social media at our fingertips?  Somedays I take my lunch.  Recently my wife bought me a bunch of those disposable containers that I don’t have to remember to bring home.  It makes the whole “leftovers for lunch” thing a whole lot more manageable.  I take other things to work as well.  I take books, snacks, keys, etc.  I also take along my personality, my skillset, my ambitions.  But the real question is, “Do I take along my faith?”

Many might argue that there should be a separation of faith and work; a duality of life that says live your faith at home, but not at the office.  Such folks believe that work practices should not be impacted by one’s faith positions.  Some fear that faith could be offensive, over-bearing, and perhaps even off-putting.  But I’m not in that camp.  I tend to believe that if faith is in you, it should always go with you and should even be evident to those around you.  However, one’s faith should be naturally expressed, lovingly conveyed, and authentically lived.  Faith should not be a club used to impose opinion condescendingly upon others.  It is not to be a litmus test to judge another person’s worth or likeability.  It is not to be used in any way that repels others from honest inquiry about your beliefs.  As I understand it, our faith should draw people into relationship, not push them away.  So how can we take our faith to work in a non-offensive, Christ-promoting, culturally-impacting way?  Here’s a few thoughts…

Be Joyful.  We can’t be up-beat and happy all the time.  That’s not even close to what I am suggesting.  Joy transcends emotions.  It is rooted in the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, acknowledging that his faithfulness and love for us is constant and enduring.  Being joyful means that we can offer peace, calm, and hope to those around us, even on a bad work day.

Do your best, always.  Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  There is a calling contained in that verse to work hard and to strive for excellence.  Because we do all things “as unto the Lord,” we cannot settle for mediocrity.  We must constantly ask, “Is this my best?”  Details matter.

Treat others with civility and respect.    I Cor. 3:16 reminds us that the Holy Spirit lives in us.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)  No Spirit-led person should allow rudeness, anger, or a lack of decency and civility to come from their mouths or hearts.  It’s just not in us if we are Spirit-filled.

Be honest.  Faith demands integrity.  When people can’t trust your words, how will they ever trust in the Savior you proclaim?

Be supportive.  There will always be people around you in the work environment who are experiencing difficulties.  And although we cannot pretend to “fix” everything in their lives, we can offer support and encouragement.  Sometimes it’s as simple as taking the time to listen.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the promise to pray for them, or better yet, to take a moment to pray with them.

Practice forgiveness as a daily discipline.  One of the hardest demands of the Christian faith is that of forgiveness.  It is also one of the most clearly evident ways we have to demonstrate our commitment to Christ.  We should make a habit of telling people that we are sorry when we have wrong them, and forgive them when they have wronged us.  It means that we cannot become “historical” with every infraction.  We have to model a complete offering of grace and a willingness to trust again.

It is never an easy quest to live one’s faith consistently and openly before the world.  But it is what Christ expects of us.  So take your faith along on the ride to work this week.  Let it be lovingly evident in everything that you do.


How to Carry the Load

Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Executive Director

I once heard a story from the days of the old west.  It seems that a cowboy was making the long walk back to his ranch, carrying a load of supplies in a burlap sack that he had slung across his shoulder.  The journey had been long and hard.  His feet ached and his back was tired.  The dust from the dirt road covered his clothing from head to toe.  Mixed with his sweat, the dust made a gritty ring around his collar.  A friend was traveling the same road, riding on his buckboard wagon which was being drawn by a horse.  He recognized his friend and pulled up beside him on the road.  “Hop in!  Let me give you a ride,” said the neighbor.  The tired cowboy quickly took him up on the offer.  But when he climbed up on the seat of the wagon, he kept the burlap sack slung over his shoulder.  The friend said, “Why don’t you set your sack down and rest your back for a while?”  To which the old cowboy replied, “You are kind enough to give me a ride today, I’ll just keep carrying my own sack.”

There are times when life gets overwhelming.  From time to time all of us have to shoulder a heavy load of concern, grief, fatigue, or pain.  No one is immune from the day-to-day struggles of life.  The load can be overwhelming at times… back breaking and soul stealing.  In such moments, it’s always meaningful to have those friends who will come along beside us and help us to carry some of the burden.  But there are some burdens that have to be borne alone.  And that’s hard.

I have a friend who now carries such a load.  His life is burdened by a situation with a family member that he will have to carry for the rest of his life.  And he will carry it well.  He’s strong and full of faith… but he’s also human.  He will get tired.  He will become weary.  There will be days when he will want to do anything to put down his burden but he can’t.  It’s with him for the duration.  And what is frustrating for those of us who know him is that we can’t really make it any better.  All we can do is pray faithfully, encourage verbally, and understand compassionately.  My friend is not to be pitied, but accompanied for some of the journey.  I can’t rest his back from his burden, but I can sit and listen and offer the solace of human understanding.

I am reminded of the Old Testament story of Job.  Job’s life goes to “hell in a hand-basket.”  In the course of a single day, Job loses all of his livestock, servants, and ten children.  Even as he mourns, he is afflicted with horrible skin sores.  Four of his friends show up to offer their support.  They sit with him in silence for 7 days.  No one speaks.  No one tries to “fix” his grief.  They just surround him and let him grieve.  It would have been enough.  He would have found some comfort in the sheer presence of his friends.  But then they do try to answer his grief.  They suggest that his problems are a result of his sins, or those of his children.  They suggest that God is punishing him.  Job becomes so irritated that he calls his friends “worthless physicians” who “whitewash their advice with lies.” (Job 13:4)

I hope that I’m a better friend than that.  I hope you have better sense as well.  We can’t fix everyone’s pain and we sure don’t help when we try to “fix blame.”  Sometimes those who are forced to shoulder an oppressive load, just need for us offer only our presence and not our judgment.  Sometimes we simply need to accompany them for part of their journey.  I can’t fix the pain in my friend’s life… no use in even trying.  But he will know that I haven’t forgotten his plight, nor neglected my daily prayers.  I’m not going to preach empty words of hope nor quote pious sounding expressions.  I’m just going to be there when he needs me, even if it means sitting in silence as he weeps.