Regardless of how far we have come along in religious rights in the workplace, there still remains a certain uneasiness of just how to handle expression of faith in the workplace.
There's a fear among managers, often intensified by the legal or human resources department, about religion in the workplace. Policymakers have exaggerated perceptions of images of "Jesus Saves" banners hanging from cubicles, exorcisms in the break room, and prayer circles outside the CEO's office. After three decades in the [secular] workplace, I’ve learned how to walk the fine line. While many policymakers believe faith should be relegated to the worship center, they do appreciate the ethics and dedication people of faith bring to the bottom line.
I think society – and the typical workplace – misunderstands people who are motivated by faith, believing it’s more about conversion rather than transformation. And they think religion is full of symbols and rituals, rather than lifestyle.
"The path to discipleship is a public path – and not private," Vincent Bacote, author of The Political Disciple, told me once during a discussion about faith and work at Laity Lodge. He believes that the church should be training people on how to be better Christ-bearers in the workplace. 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 Christian always oozes it – the transformation cannot stay silent. For me, true faith is less about church and more about the daily renewal of the mind.
[Tweet "There's really no such thing as a private faith."]
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, rather it's a right relationship with the world around us. To say it another way, “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. “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.