Getting prepared this morning to go to my full time job, to earn my full time living (which would be the only way I earn one). I do not work full time in “Christian service”. Yet I do consider myself to be a disciple, or a student, of Jesus Christ. My aim is to learn from Him how to live my life. I do not aim or wish to live His life over again. He already lived His life during His time, and He lived it very well, thank you very much. But I do aspire to live my life as He would have it, and to his glory. I fall well short of that at this point, this I know. But I would like to consider myself a saint-in-training. We are all saints in the body of Christ, over and over again Paul would refer to the believers in different churches as saints. “All the saints greet you.” 2 Corinthians 13:13 ESV. “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” Philippians 4:22 ESV. “Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.” Hebrews 13:24 ESV. (This may or may not have been Paul, we don’t know. It refers to the believers being talked about as saints either way). “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,” 1 Corinthians 14:33 ESV. This is just a short list, but you get the point.
The trouble is, while we may be saints in the body of Christ, we are still sinners. This is who we are in this world IF we are attempting to live in this world as a disciple of Jesus Christ (and that’s a very big “if”) – we are saints-in-training who are still sinners falling short of the glory of God.
Yet – aspire to our calling saints we yet do. We come to Christ as we are, not as we would like to be. We accept Jesus as Lord, we ask the Holy Spirit to invade our lives. But then, we have another choice to make. We’ve decided already to become “Christians”, to check that box that says we believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried. We then believe that he was vindicated by God the Father on Easter Sunday, was resurrected in the body, walked among his disciples for forty more days and ascended into heaven, and has been seated at the right hand of the Father ever since, having dominion and power over all nations.
But to become a disciple of Jesus is another thing entirely. To become his student, we make the effort to attempt to follow his teaching, to learn from him, to be his student in how we live our lives here and now.
Yet we go into the world, and we just look like another part of that world. We go to church on Sunday, we read our bibles, we are sure to do or participate in certain religious rituals or activities. Then go back to our ‘real” life.
Because we do have a life. We had a life before we met Jesus, didn’t we? And we still have, while hopefully an improved version, that life. All the teachings of Jesus do not make life in themselves. They presuppose a life already in existence. They presuppose the fact that you exist. The life we have is who we are and all the things we do. It is the life God gave us. We are exactly where he has us. But – it is this very life which already exists which He wants us to give back to Him.
The teachings of Jesus show us how to live this life which we are giving back to him. He gave us our time, family, friends, neighbors, talents and opportunities. His teachings show how and why we are to live the life we have been given.
Our problem, really, is that we go through all the trouble of going to “church”, reading the Bible, and serving whatever ways we serve, then we go back to life and forget everything he taught. Then we go to work at the jobs or professions in which we toil, and we forget completely everything he teaches. Many of us actively choose to leave Jesus at the front door. We think we can be disciples of Jesus everywhere but at the job where we spend more waking hours than anywhere else in our lives.
We claim to be followers of Christ, then exclude most of our waking hours from him. We go to “work” and Jesus is no longer Lord of all, he’s left to wait in the hot, sun baked car until 5:00. We then go run one of the largest areas of our lives by our own power and our own wisdom. We take our instruction on how to do that part of our lives from anybody but Jesus. We are convinced that this is how it has to be, because after all, I don’t work in Christian ministry, do I?
But this is clearly not the expectation Jesus would have as teacher, we do know this instinctively. The apostle Paul tells us Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Yes, Jesus is still Lord, even when we walk through those office doors. We can not segment our jobs apart from Christ. He is Lord of all, or not at all. We are to make our jobs a primary place of our discipleship, just like it is a primary place in our lives.
What does this mean? Am I supposed to be the Christian cop, pointing out every error and every flaw everybody in the office has? Am I supposed to be the Christian nag, making sure everyone around knows they are doing it wrong? Of course not. IF we’ve read our sermon on the mount and the rest of our bibles we know this is not the case. Especially for me, I have enough logs of my own not to be worrying about everybody else’s dust, and every time I focus on their dust my logs get bigger anyway.
But it does mean that I should not cooperate with things which everyone, including me, knows are wrong. It means that I treat my office mates and coworkers with the same respect, love and grace I give to my family or other church members. It means that God sees my conduct at the office as well. God, along with everyone else in the office who might know that I am a follower of Christ, will judge my “professional” life just as much as my “personal” life. After all, it’s all one life, it’s all part of the same 24 hour day. So I don’t have to be obnoxious about it, but I should not cooperate and be a part of wrongs at my office any more than anywhere else in my life. I should not lie or cheat at work any more than I should anywhere else. I should avoid office gossip just as I would avoid it anywhere else. I should not create office gossip or issues just as I wouldn’t anywhere else. I will say, there are times when this is difficult, I’m sure in all jobs. There are just shortcuts we take, things we do to just make things go easier and more smoothly. But somehow it all catches up, doesn’t it?
But we should be non-cooperative with these things. I certainly shouldn’t lead others in doing them. I should maintain an attitude of service to others in my work environment, just as I would attempt to serve others in any other environment. This service should not obtrude on the work if others or simply be done to be seen as a helper, just where it is needed. I should also be in prayer for those I work with just as I pray for my family or brothers in Christ.
Jesus teachings on non retaliation, love of enemy, not simply doing things to be seen or for financial advantage (!!!???) and appropriate assistance to those who might need it come into play, even at work. Of course, we should always be watchful and prepared to meet obvious spiritual needs or a displayed interest in Jesus with kind and understanding words. After all, if we live at the office with the light that can only come from Christ, there will be some who approach us about it.
And of course, we should do our work as though we are doing it for Jesus himself. Because after all, we are!! I am a sales manager. I should live and work during business hours the same way I live after hours. God cares about my job. Whether we weld steel, flip burgers, design aircraft, fly the aircraft, wait tables, run a bank, run a ministry, it does not matter. Our work is work that needs to be done, it is central to our lives, and it is important to our Father. He wants our work to be done well. Our work is important, it needs to be done. As disciples of Jesus, it means that it should be done as Jesus himself would do it, just as we attempt to live the rest of our lives as Jesus would live them. Nothing can substitute for that. As a matter of fact, while we are at our jobs doing our assigned work, even our specifically “religious” activities should take second place to our job with all effort, all our focus, and all our power which we have from the kingdom of God. That should be part of our daily devotion to God, part of how we bring glory to His name.
If we do our jobs in this way, of course that means that those we work for and with will benefit. But this is not why we do the job as we do. We do our jobs as we do because we are serving the Lord Christ. We know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. So whoever else benefits from our labor, whether we feel we are appreciated, whether they treat us well or treat us poorly, it does not matter to us. We don’t live in anger, even with those who are angry with us. We don’t respond to anger with anger, we respond to their anger with our peace. In fact, our peace does not depend on anything they do. At work, as in the rest of our lives, our peace comes from the one who is Lord of all.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
Colossians 3:23-25 ESV