From the time that I exited Seminary, I've been trying to figure out what in the world you do as a Christian worker, not just getting an education and then going on to something else. Usually when they learned that you were going to Seminary you got the blank stare or look of disgust or a gasp, "really!". Sometimes there were times of ministering, to those you worked with, yes, but working at a hospital there were many opportunities to see God's work.
I've moved on from the medical field, being in it for about 6 years as a Medic in the Air Force and then on the outside as a clinical assistant at a hospital in Ft. Worth. Now I work as a Travel Consultant, yes, just like my life at times, makes no logical sense or connection, just go with me. :) But I've now worked for over 10 years in the travel industry, it is a huge field of ministry.
For the fact that most of the Consultants, that I know, who are male, are homosexual or older men who are divorced. I know there are the exceptions, I'm one of them! Married, committed, four kids, conservative, Christian, you can't strike many more polar opposites. In fact, I have a guy that I talk to about many issues that there are between trying to strike a common ground between living in a homosexual relationship and true Christianity. It is very civil, in fact, normally, we'll always pick up right where we left off but still have a good working relationship. I had to test the "waters" first, so to say, you can't just jump into those conversations, is a misnomer, but they will happen if you are open about your faith.
What brought this about was the article that I read at For Christ and Culture by Bruce Ashford. He brought up several points worth sharing but I'll let you read the article for yourself. The one thing that caught me today was this sentence, "Is it fair to say that most evangelicals do not recognize their workplaces as a significant way to love God and neighbor?" So, you see what I see? I think that the second part of that last phrase hit me differently today, don't you love how that happens sometimes? Think about it, when was the last time that you thought of the worker outside your door or in the hallway as you pass, your "neighbor"?
It's been awhile for me but I have some thoughts on why that is the case.
First, my own vanity. How often do you not want to look at another person because you just don't know exactly what will happen? Will they reject you or will they look right at you? How is my hair, teeth, eyes, etc...? You may think this is silly but it isn't when you work in the Arts district in Dallas. Listen, if they filled up our building with the bleach that they used to whiten every ones teeth it would fill it up to the 2nd floor at least! Vanity is abounding and I don't have a lot of time being the father of four and not to mention married. Who cares what people think, right? Wrong. Many times I'm thinking about what they think but not for the right reason. Just a simple hello would do, even if they say nothing. That is the point of Jesus story about the Samaritan, they were not compatible in there race, religion or creeds but He said that this is your neighbor.
Second, tied into the first but still exclusive is what I would call, the "catered to" realm of my job. I work as a travel consultant in a downtown office. I can call any of the sales reps in any of the hotels in Downtown and have lunch at some of the most exclusive restaurants. They would bring me over and tell me what a pleasure it is to have me, not that I'm doubting their sincerity mind you it is just that they're sales women (for the most part). They like to sell me on the particulars of their hotels and I would like to say that I would make it more profitable for them. But, if I look at it just like that, am I looking at them as my neighbor? I hope that my relationships with them would be above reproach and steadfastly faithful to the gospel. But the feeling I get a lot of times is, this isn't reality at least not for me. Dealing with that aspect of my job and trying to love those who stay at these places and eat at these places and love these places is difficult.
Third, the aspect of servant hood at my job. You might discern from the above that my job is really not that fulfilling and for the most part you would be right. I don't look at my job and say, "Yea, I get to go to work today!", I wish that I did. Maybe part of it is that I work with Lawyers? That can make any ones life difficult. :) There is, within the field, a very upper-elitist mindset that likes the idea of being catered to, where I come out of a situation feeling like saying, "STOP", I'm just a normal person, they would come out of it complaining about the food or service or a myriad of other things. They want you to say that they are special because of where they work, what the drive, where they live, who they marry/date, what they eat, where their kids go to school. Quite honestly, this is the hardest aspect about being neighborly, when someone demands their way or doesn't acknowledge a job well done because I feel that the cliche, "you're only as good as your next screw up" applies here, HUGE. Changing the culture seems much harder from the bottom of the totem pole than from up at the top.
Now, I will say that there are some exceptions to the rule but that is the problem, they're also still under the top ones who rule the culture. Simple things like, "Thx" rather than "Thank you", sometimes I would rather not have a response, but that is part of my being neighborly and hopefully showing Gods love, responding in kindness. When they look at you, in the eyes and you address them, talk to them, say their name and no response, walk in love. This is the culture that I'm talking about.
Someone who I knew well, that worked here for five years quit just about 2 months ago after 5 years of being here and putting out a resume once a week to a head hunter. To say that she loathed it was an understatement, God finally gave her what she wanted and I think she is learning in her new job to be thankful. :) When you are working with that kind of culture, that is a bane. I don't want to be judged for how I look, what I drive, where I live and what I wear but that is this culture. To be neighborly I almost have to be counter intuitive, be a light of God's grace within the midst of great desires to be catered to. Show the greatness of God that far surpasses any wealth you could have on earth. Live the verse in John 12:25, "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
That is my struggle, to show the light of the gospel that says, I don't deserve it but Christ, by his mercies has given His own life. Don't live that as a tersely said statement but as a truth in tears.
Your boasting friend,