Many Christians are understandably reluctant to discuss their faith at work, whether because of a growing social hostility to Christian faith or, more particularly, a fear of negative consequences for their employment.
As the Ruddock Report noted in 2018, “religion and religious conviction, belief, or activity” is not a protected attribute in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, which means that it is not unlawful under this Act for an employer to treat an employee adversely on the basis of their religion.
There have been a string of examples – such as Ryan* and Chris* (not their real names), who experienced workplace discrimination for expressing religious beliefs and needed to be legally defended by the Human Rights Law Alliance.
Although some workplaces are becoming increasingly hostile to employees expressing their religious beliefs, this should not deter us from expressing our faith at work but rather spur us on to find creative ways to do it.
Principles to follow
While Christians currently don’t have adequate protections against religious discrimination in the workplace, there are still plenty of opportunities to share Christ at work, verbally and physically, without putting our jobs at risk. Because we have been given a mandate as Christians to share the good news of salvation (Matthew 28:19), we mustn’t go to ground in fear of what may happen.
Here are some principles to follow in sharing your faith at work.
All our speech should be marked with gentleness and respect.
The principle of speaking “with gentleness and respect”, which applies specifically to conversations between wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3:15, can be applied more generally to all conversations. When you demonstrate that you respect someone else’s point of view by taking the time to understand what they believe, they are more likely to do you the same courtesy. Our goal in sharing our faith is not to win an argument but to “win over” a person, and people are rarely browbeaten into the kingdom of God.
We can honour God by obeying our employers.
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord” (Ephesians 6:5-7).
Whatever your job is, your employer expects you to work for the allocated time you are supposed to be working. Thus, we should be respectful of this and reserve talking about our faith with co-workers in our own time (e.g. during breaks or outside office hours). It’s much better to invite people to church or share a meal at home, where you can have more extended and in-depth conversations.
Seek opportunities to be kind to all colleagues.
Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Undoubtedly there will be circumstances where you will need supernatural assistance to be kind (when your work colleagues don’t desire it or when they are actively unkind to you). Still, when we do this, it has a profound effect. When we are genuinely kind to others, both that kindness and we ourselves become a reflection of the immeasurable kindness of God’s heart.
Some workplaces are hotbeds of gossip and backbiting. When Christians do what it says in 1 Peter 3:9 to not “repay evil with evil or insult with insult” but “repay evil with blessing”, their co-workers sit up and take notice. And if you ever find it difficult to be kind, remember that God forgave us first when we didn’t deserve it (Ephesians 4:32).
Remember to work for the Lord.
It is too easy to think that what we see and do on Earth is all there is to life – especially concerning work – and we forget that ultimately, our work should glorify God. When we feel disgruntled with our job or boss, the temptation to not give 100 percent of our skill, focus, time and energy to our tasks can be incredibly seductive. But when this temptation springs forth, we should look to Colossians 3:23 (“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”) and remember that, ultimately, we work for God and should cultivate a mindset and work ethic that reflects this.
US pastor Keith Welton notes that “our work ought to show we have a higher calling. It ought to say that something greater than earthly reward motivates it. The quality of our work should glorify God”.
The Apostle Paul’s directive is also applicable in circumstances at work that aren’t your direct responsibility – for example, being the first to volunteer your time to complete mundane or unexpected tasks that crop up. Although the task in question may not be your responsibility, when we consistently go above and beyond the bare minimum at work, we directly glorify God and spread the spirit of Christ in our workplace.
Be the change you want to see.
No matter the position – employer or employee, CEO or intern – every Christian possesses the ability to influence their workplace culture through their actions. The degree of that influence may vary, and it can be easy to think your actions and values won’t have much of an impact, but remember that change frequently occurs like ripples on water or a snowball down a hill.
You can be a light shining on the hill for your co-workers to see – a witness to God through you.
Pastor and founder of desiringGod.org, John Piper, points to the importance of injecting Christian influence into the corporate world, saying, “if you have influence and opportunity, shape the ethos of the workplace so that the structures and policies and expectations and aims move toward accordance with Christ”.
Similarly, if your colleagues regularly complain at or about work, don’t join in. Instead, strive to be different in being thankful to God that you have a job. As Piper succinctly puts it: “Be known as the hope-filled, humble, thankful one at work”.
Relationally, Christlike change is achievable by taking a genuine interest in your colleagues and being there for them when needed. Although simple, this can profoundly affect a workplace, especially one driven by self-interest and a lack of genuine compassion, as your character is observably and radically different from the norm.
How good would it be if, in 2021, our efforts to share the gospel sparked a revival in workplaces across Australia?