Honoring Christ as Lord (even when it costs you everything)1
Let me try to describe a hypothetical scenario that illustrates how we as Christians are to respond to people who, although hostile to us personally, express a measure of curiosity about our faith and hope in Christ. Continue reading . . .
Let me try to describe a hypothetical scenario that illustrates how we as Christians are to respond to people who, although hostile to us personally, express a measure of curiosity about our faith and hope in Christ.
Debbie has been a Christian for quite some time. She has grown a lot in her relationship with God and has discovered an almost surprising boldness in her faith. She is especially zealous to align her life with the Scriptures. When she hears the words “righteousness” and “good” she never thinks of them in legalistic terms, as if she’s supposed to work hard to be “holier than thou” and by doing so merit God’s favor. For her, righteousness and goodness simply means living in accordance with the Scriptures and doing all she can by God’s grace to resist the temptations of sin. It’s not been easy, but Debbie is unwavering in her commitment.
Others have noticed this about her, especially the people in the office where she works. The other day it was obvious that the conversation in the lunch room quickly changed when she walked in. She later heard from a friend that everyone had been talking about a going-away party for a co-worker who was taking a new job in another city. As it turned out, Debbie was never invited.
There was another instance when the office manager was home sick for three days. Virtually everyone else slacked off and wasted a lot of time, coming to work late and leaving early, but at least doing enough that the manager wasn’t likely to notice any drop off in productivity. Debbie, on the other hand, never missed a beat. Her efforts were the same as they typically are when the office manager is looking over her shoulder. A few of her co-workers began to call her “DDG” or “Debbie-do-gooder” while some snidely accused her of spiritual snobbery and thinking that she’s better than everyone else.
Debbie put up with all this pretty well until the end of the year. Her Christmas bonus was half what the others received and she was the only one in the office that didn’t get a raise in pay. She didn’t even have to ask why, as her boss called her into his office and chewed her out about her “elitist” attitude. He was satisfied with her work, but he didn’t hesitate to tell her that several of her co-workers had complained that she brought her religion into the office and was making everyone else feel pretty uncomfortable. “If you want to keep your job,” he said, “you’d better work hard at fitting in. I won’t stand for someone who makes everyone else reluctant to come into work.”
Debbie wanted to respond and defend herself, especially given the fact that nothing her boss said was true. Everything he had heard was a distortion of the facts and had been twisted in a way that put her in a bad light. But something in her spirit said, “No. Keep your mouth shut.”
Although Debbie refused to compromise, it wasn’t easy. Her running conversation with the Lord went something like this:
“God, I don’t get it. I don’t cheat on my time card. I do more work than virtually anyone else in the office. I’ve kept my mouth shut when the language gets obscene and I’ve never tried to undermine anyone just so that I could get ahead in my career. So what’s with the persecution? I know they’re not throwing rocks at me or anything like that. But it’s still pretty rough. Lord, I have to be honest, I’m scared where this may lead. If I get laid off I’m going to be in trouble. There aren’t many jobs out there for someone like me. It would be one thing if I deserved all this horrible stuff about me. I mean, I can take my medicine when I’m the one who messed up. But they gossip about me and slander me for no other reason than that I’m a Christian. It’s only when I obey your Word that they make up jokes about me and talk about me behind my back and ridicule my belief in you and the supernatural world.”
After praying about it, Debbie decides to attend the office Christmas party. She went last year and was about the only person there who didn’t get hammered. She ended up driving half a dozen of her co-workers home.
But there she was, in her usual position, standing alone trying not to look hurt. Then Megan walked over. She’d always gotten along pretty well with Megan, even though she was pretty vocal about her atheism. Debbie noticed the other day that during a break at work Megan was reading Christopher Hitchens’ book, “God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”
“So, tell me why you’re a Christian,” Megan blurted out.
Wow! Debbie couldn’t believe it. I mean, just like that. I’ve heard of “open doors” to evangelism, Debbie thought to herself, but this is too good to be true.
“I’d be happy to,” said Debbie, “but do you mind if I ask why you asked?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” mumbled Megan. “I guess I couldn’t help but notice how you respond to all the ridicule at the office, or maybe I should say how you never seem to respond to the ridicule. I could never do that. If people had said to me the things they say to you I would have killed someone by now. Doesn’t that stuff bother you?”
“Sure it does,” Debbie replied. “I’m human. It hurts. But I know in my heart that as long as I continue to yield my life to Jesus Christ as Lord, nothing anyone says or does can ever do any lasting or eternal harm to me.”
“Are you kidding me,” Megan asked in disbelief? “Harm? Good grief, they could really make your life miserable. They could fire you. They could ruin your reputation if they wanted to.”
“Yeah, but the Lord has always provided for me and I’m sure he’d do it again. And honestly, his opinion of me is the only one that really matters.”
“Huh, what makes you believe this Jesus is . . . what did you call him, ‘Lord’? What does that mean? I just don’t understand how you can remain so calm and collected. When everyone else freaks out about the economy, you’re unmoved. When we heard that Richard had come down with swine flu, everyone got worried except you. And you’ve been passed over for that corner office with the big window at least six times and you never seem to mind. What’s with all this?”
“Would you like to sit down somewhere else where it’s quiet? If you really want an answer I’d be happy to give you one.”
“Yeah,” said Megan. “I’m sort of interested in what you have to say.”
For the next two hours Debbie and Megan ignored all the festivities around them. Debbie told her about Jesus and why her hope was in him and not the economy, why her hope was in his love for her and not what other people thought, why her hope couldn’t be shaken by the threat of terrorism or swine flu or unemployment.
In a nutshell, Debbie was doing what the Spirit of God through the Apostle Peter commanded her to do in 1 Peter 3:13-17 –
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:13-17).
In the next article we’ll look at how Debbie reacted when she first read those words. We’ll look at her running dialogue with God about what it meant for how she was supposed to respond to those at work. Be sure to come back for more!