Excellent Behavior – Following Christ in the Sinful Working World

I like working.   I’ve had a job since I was 13 (a paper route) and have never desired to “get to retirement”.  I’m “that guy” at work who picks up extra overtime when no one else wants it.  I’ve also seen all the aspects of business too.  I’ve owned a few companies and worked as a manager.  I’ve been just another worker bee and been an independent contractor.  I have worked factories, offices, warehouses, drove a truck, been outside, inside… well, let’s just say I’ve done a lot.

Yet, while I’ve worked both white and blue collar jobs for one reason or another, I’ve settled into blue collar work.   I’m rather proud of that,  I think.   While there’s nothing wrong with a guy putting on a tie and working behind a desk, I’m much more familiar with the blue collar way of life.   My mom is a hard working nurse, my dad was a janitor and in the great city of Pittsburgh, 70% of the people you meet get dirty for a living.  Looking back on it, half of my childhood friends in our small town had parents that worked at the local steel mill or at the hospital with my Mom (my hometown’s two big employers). Others were electricians, plumbers, carpenters.  Most parent/teacher conferences filled the school parking lot with work trucks and vans.  It was rare to meet a friend whose parents worked an “office job”.  Suffice to say, blue collar work is in my blood.

Last year, I finally took the plunge at settling down into a career.  I studied HVAC and became a certified technician.  I thought I’d be at that company forever.  You know what they say about making God laugh, right?  Long story short: my company lost the contract and my job was coming to an end.  Thankfully, God provided me with a job rather quickly and I managed to give my old employer two weeks notice instead of being let go. I even managed to squeeze a week of vacation in between my two jobs.

But, I had some regret as well; mostly stemming from missed opportunities at my previous job.  I worked by myself most of the time, but there were people with whom I interacted everyday.  I’m ashamed to say that I don’t think I represented Christ well to those people.  There were a few Christians, and I did connect with them, but there were many more non-christians.  To my shame, I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I shared the Gospel to those people.  It’s not that I ruined my witness, necessarily; it’s that I mostly kept to myself and didn’t have much of a public witness to ruin.

I am a great sinner.  Thank God that I have a great Savior.

When I landed the new job, I resolved to be different.  The importance of being a light in a dark place weighed on me.  I say “dark place” because the sinful culture of a blue collar work place full of unsaved men is difficult to deny.  The sexual jokes and topics are prolific, the curse words flow freely and, despite the “honest day’s work veneer” the lack of honesty is more of a reality than it seems.  I don’t believe I’ve met a Christian yet, but I’ve definitely met a lot of people in need of Christ.  The burden to not only preach the Gospel, but live the Gospel in my work and my life is evident in everything I do there.  Being like the lost is easy. Being like Christ is difficult.

I know I have to see my work as a missionary sees a mission field.  One thing that comes with these kinds of jobs is there is a certain culture that’s assumed of everyone who works in these types of fields. Everyone swears like a sailor and looks at porn, they think.  So, for me, I knew it was important to establish that I was different.  It didn’t take long to put that resolution to the test. “The food is great here.” said my client, as we sat in his favorite “work restaurant” sharing a lunch together, “and the scenery isn’t bad either.”  He wasn’t referring to the beautiful Pittsburgh city-scape, but rather the young beautiful waitress who waited on us.  His words hit my mind like a brick of sin breaking my Christian glass house.  I’m not used to looking at waitresses like that, and I would be embarrassed to say something like that out loud.  Yet, this husband and father of three spoke as if he was complimenting the food or giving directions.  Almost immediately I knew my opportunity to set myself apart had arrived.  The words I needed to say sat in the back of my throat as if I had trouble swallowing.  Would I be the same as I was in my last job, or would I take the first steps in preaching the Gospel? “Sorry man, I only have eyes for my wife.” I said with every ounce of courage I could muster.  I’m going to need more God-given strength to actually speak theology and confront the sins of others, but I have to start somewhere, I suppose.

“Oh, me too.  Been married xx years and I don’t need those problems.”  came his response, despite his obvious surprise.  It was a pragmatic response, a defensive response, but at least he remembered the woman in his life, whose affections God had given him, to be enough.  At least we were thinking on a level of moral right and wrong now.  And as he said it to me, his eyes told me that he knew.  He knew I was different.

Now, I have to tell him why. My prayer is that God will give me another opportunity and more chances with the dozens of other men I encounter every week.  They need salvation, and I know the Savior.  May God grant me the boldness.

May He grant me discipline too.  Peter wrote to the “aliens” in Asia Minor:

 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. {1Pe 2:12 NASB}

The implication is clear, they WILL slander us as evildoers.  I’m certain it won’t be long before some of the men begin to ignore me and grow uncomfortable around me.  I’ve worked in these fields long enough to know how they treat others who “don’t fit in”.

The slander will happen and as Christians in the workplace, we can’t change who we are to avoid them.  No, instead we must keep our behavior excellent.  It’s the background of the Gospel, the setting against which we present the Gospel, and hopefully the thing they will look back on if God visits them with salvation.  If my language is wicked, my behavior questionable, and I show no discernable difference between my life and theirs, then I am communicating that the Gospel I preach does not result in holiness, and that one can believe that Gospel without being at all different.  We believers know that is not so and thus, in addition to communicating the truth of the Gospel, we have to live the life of the Gospel too.  And few places give us better opportunities to do it all than where we work.

So, let us not compartmentalize our work from our spiritual lives, but instead see our work as a mission field full of people who have a need to hear of their great sin and their greater Savior.

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