I definitely remember one of the things that stretched me most as a new believer. It wasn’t changing stuff that I had done previously, like eating too much, drinking too much, using bad language, looking a little too long at a beautiful lady walking by, etc. It wasn’t beginning to spend time in my Bible or doing some type of daily devotional, in prayer and meditation. It certainly wasn’t regularly attending church and serving; I love going to church and I definitely love to serve!
So, what was it? It was learning how to “be Jesus” in day-to-day situations, especially at work. How do I actually “love” people who I previously couldn’t stand? How do I behave in a way that honors God even though God-centered behavior very often flies in the face of the workplace norm?
Before becoming an Executive Pastor I spent more than 20 years in corporate America. (You can read the About page of my blog if you’re interested in the details.) I remember one particular leadership position with a company with a working environment “norm” that included lots of behavior that would challenge any well-intending Christ follower. It was perfectly OK and very normal to turn one’s head, watching an attractive woman walking by. The use of lots of choice language in conversations with others was normal. It was even normal in fairly high-level meetings. It was more than acceptable for a group of executives to follow a business dinner with a trip to one of the city’s “Gentlemen’s Clubs.” It wasn’t even out of the ordinary to see a married coworker spending a little too much time with another woman, if you get my meaning, while on a business trip.
As a Christ-follower, I had to find a way not to become a “weird Christian” while not violating any of my principles in terms of my behavior. I didn’t want to be weird or “preachy” to my coworkers, but I did want to be noticeably different opening doors for sharing my faith with others. So, I drew the line as it related to my own behavior. I didn’t criticize the behavior of others. I just made sure that my behavior was fitting for a person who believes in Jesus. When the heads were turning to check out a nice looking young woman, my head wasn’t one of them. It was difficult, but I kept thinking, “What would that lady think if she knew I was watching her walk away?” Or, “What would my wife say if she saw me looking?” When I spoke, I somehow found a way to express myself without using some of the choice expletives that my coworkers normally used. I kept a healthy distance from women while still doing my job. I only went to lunch with female coworkers if others were along with us. I avoided business trips with just me and a female coworker. And, I definitely always went home after business dinners while others were headed for the strip club.
Did this create a little “separation” between my boss, most of my coworkers, and me? Definitely yes! It never got in the way of promotions, bonuses, or other positive recognition, though. In fact, my boss had a lot of respect for me. I remember the first time we talked about my passion for Jesus and the church. He was, I think, impressed. In fact, now (years later) he regularly attends church with his wife! Pretty cool!
The bottom line is this: Jesus told us to evangelize the world. He didn’t tell us to separate ourselves from the rest of the world. In fact, he told us to go into the world. In order to do that, we must stay “normal.” What do normal people do? They listen to normal music. They have fun doing stuff that others enjoy doing. Of course, they are also doing stuff that God would like to see them stop doing. And, they need us to introduce them to Jesus so he can change them. If we’re “freaky Christians” we’ll never get close enough to another to actually have an impact on them. They’ll think we’re weird and just stay away from us.
We need to learn that we can’t change the behavior of others. We can only control what we do, and we need to allow Jesus to change us which helps our “different” behavior to open doors and create opportunities to share our faith with others.