Christianity in the Workplace: Where is the Balance?

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This is a complicated question and a challenging one to answer, but we need to understand that it cannot be answered in a strictly business context. The Bible makes no distinction between acting in a “secular” setting and acting in a “religious” setting. Thus, a theological perspective is needed if a balance is to be found. Christians in any organization will encounter religious differences, and not just simply differences in religion and worldviews, but inter-denominational differences of Christian doctrine as well. Christianity does, however, strictly condemn pluralism, affirming there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus (I Tim 2:5 KJV). In practical theological terms, Christians must believe this. But how do they adhere to this tenet of their faith and still be sensitive to other faiths who do not agree?

From a rigidly theological perspective, the Bible teaches that Christians who possess the truth have a responsibility to share it with others who do not have it, according to most Christian leaders. It is even commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission in Matt. 28:18-20. In an unreceptive environment or with an uninterested co-worker, does such rigidity do more harm than good to the Christian witness?

This is an important consideration. I believe there is the potential to do great harm if Christians are insensitive to religious differences in the workplace and pushy with their own beliefs. I would argue that our sensitivity and openness to these differences increases the potential for good. This does not mean we have to agree with these differences. It just means we have to be willing to “preach” in a variety of ways. Do Christians have some flexibility in the methodology of fulfilling the Great Commission?

I believe they do. A Christian’s most effective witness in the workplace does not always involve evangelism, but working with all faiths in the spirit of humility to bring about all that is noble and good, acting more as a planter than as a harvester. To borrow from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, if necessary use words.” I find this to be the great difference between responsibility and sensitivity. You can be a responsible and sensitive Christian.

Such attention to modeling the Christian message through its ethics has been found in various research to have substantial and beneficial effects on organizational behavior, especially if they are also modeled by CEOs or managers. Christians in the workplace can hold to scriptural principles by modeling them in their actions and have faith that it will help set an ethical tone in the workplace, without offending a diverse religious community. If such grace and understanding is exhibited in our actions consistently, and opens someone to the message of Christianity, a seed has been sown. As Paul said, it is God who will give the increase (I Corinthians 3:6).

Fear of intimidation is the main reason that people avoid emphasizing their spiritual beliefs in the workplace, even when knowing the benefits associated with it. Perhaps spirituality is an unfortunate catch-phrase and viewed by Christians with disdain since it seemingly holds all faith traditions as being on equal footing, when the Bible tells us they are not. From a strictly neutral stand-point, though, such an environment should be seen as an opportunity.

On his tour of Athens in Acts 17, the apostle Paul saw the religious environment of the Greeks as an opportunity to share the truth of Christianity. As Paul walked through the city, it was clear that the Greeks worshipped a host of deities.  Paul’s presentation of Christian truths on Mars Hill was before an audience of very diverse religious beliefs. Paul was not afraid to stand among them, relate to them, understand them, and converse with them. Though the results of the discourse were mixed, it was mostly positive–leading to conversions and examination–and we can learn much from his approach.

Christian can “live” Christianity without forcing anyone to embrace it. A consistently lived virtuous life has been shown to positively impact workplace environments–without regard to a particular religious tradition—without offending anyone. They can model it consistently, speak of it when necessary and, in doing so, meet their Christian responsibility of being a witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ without compromising sensitivity.

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