The current global economic upheaval presents an opportunity unlike any before in history for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. It is the time that marketplace Christians can witness in word and deed to demonstrate the goodness of God to the world. Given the proliferation of global electronic communications, it may well prove to be the most effective era of evangelism, spreading the Good News of Christ, the Church has ever seen.
There are two simple practices commanded by Christ. These, in part, fulfill the discipleship mandate of the Great Commission, to do all he commands (Matthew 28:19-20), and produce evidence of godly love, that we walk according to his commandments (2 John 1:6).
The first step is public confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. In many places, marketplace Christians may suffer restrictive policies but there are more opportunities than we likely realize to confess Christ. But Jesus says, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” – Matthew 10:32.
When my wife and I owned our bicycle shop, we adorned the front page of our web site with a simple cross right in the middle. If the reader passed their cursor over the cross, it became apparent that it was a link. That link took them to a simple faith statement, proclaiming the salvation of Christ. It was not offensive or in your face but it was effective as we had many people email us to comment on their appreciation that we openly confessed Christ. The ratio of favorable to unfavorable comments was about 200:1 over a five year period. Some might think that we likely lost business due to our testimony and we may well have. But that little business grew from $8,000 in annual revenues in the last year under the previous owner to $638,000 the last full year under our ownership in just nine years. While it may not have been the hand of God contributing to our success, our confession would have been worth it even if it cost us everything in this world.
Business owners have a much greater opportunity to be overt in their public confession but most companies do not have policies against simple, faith-oriented postings within employees’ own work spaces. Even wearing a simple cross on a necklace is making a statement, despite it being largely appropriated by secularists. We have many more opportunities to witness, proclaiming our faith by our actions, living out the character of Christ, than perhaps we do to share our testimony or faith in words. But our behavior should make us standout as the most dutiful, diligent, generous, helpful, and kind workers. Our work should always be identified with the excellence of Christ. Paul asks if we “think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” – Romans 2:4. It is these same attitudes and behaviors on our part, especially at work, that will attract others to us into meaningful relationships and open the opportunities to share our faith.
For some reason, we have come to believe that making a statement openly about our Christian faith is a death knell professionally. So? Jesus preaches, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” – Matthew 5:14-16. The question becomes, which is of greater importance – financial security or obedience to Christ? Following Christ involves more risk than even the edgiest entrepreneurs face in their endeavors but what reward is there in gaining the things of this world? We too easily allow our worldly pragmatism to overwhelm our heavenly faith.
Public proclamation is the first step out of denial: “Hi, my name is Dave and I am a Christian.”
So, step one is lose all shyness about who and what you are as a Christ-follower. Live without fear before the world. What can they really do to you in light of Jesus’ promise that if we will seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness that at the very least our basic needs will be met (Matthew 6:33)? Maybe go so far as to include pertinent information about your faith in the activities and interests section of your resume’ and LinkedIn page!
I believe it is fair to say that without acknowledging God openly and fearlessly, we must question not only the substance of our faith but if we are truly willing to serve God’s Kingdom at all. That may seem harsh or legalistic but it is not. The choices we face are our own to decide upon, and to weigh as to whether we think those are even legitimate criteria for assessing our faith. At the very least, an unwillingness to openly share our faith, not in offensively running over people by preaching at them but in living godly and transparent lives, should at least give us pause to examine the depth and meaning of our Christian faith. If it turns out to not be real or of any other than our first priority before all other things, we are better off to abandon it as a charade than to misrepresent God (Revelation 3:16).
The second step is to put real meat on the bones of our faith. While our works do not in any way provide our salvation, James 2 is pretty clear that if good works are not a significant part of our normal behavior, our faith is dead. Lifeless faith is no faith at all. It has no power and no real impact inwardly or outwardly.
You see, love is not an emotion. It is an attitude that compels action. To love is a choice to serve others. Jesus addressed this frankly: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” – John 13:34. Our actions speak louder than our words and loving one another accomplishes two things. First, truly serving one another by good works glorifies God (Matthew 5:16). Second, and this pertains to loving the Church specifically, it demonstrates to the world that together, in community with one another, we are Christ followers (John 13:35). There is no Christian faith in isolation but only as it is lived out in relationships. An isolated entity cannot be holy. Holiness is a function of interaction, of character in action.
There are substantial results in loving one another within the Church. Israel was called to follow God’s commandments for the very same reason we are: to glorify God, to make him known before the world that all nations would be drawn to him. Why would they come? Deuteronomy 4:6 is telling: “So keep and do [my commandments], for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”
While we are called to love and serve all people of the world, including our enemies, even the very enemies of God, our first allegiance in Christ is to show favor to the Church, God’s people. We can witness to the glory of God in many ways. We can be honest in all our dealings. We can be generous financially in tipping (the difference between a fifteen percent tip and a twenty five percent tip on a thirty dollar meal is just three dollars, three dollars that is unlikely to make any real difference in your own life but may make an enormous difference to a young server just starting out in life or a single mom feeding and clothing her children). We can be generous in wages. We can be generous in sincere praise, encouragement and appreciation of subordinates, co-workers, and even bosses. We can favor other Christian businesses even if our bottom line suffers a bit. Such favor will demonstrate that God takes care of his people by having his people take care of his people.
The marketplace has suffered enormously, just as has every other aspect of human society, due to sin. But the power of God to redeem the marketplace, especially as a powerful witness of his glory, is far greater than our sin. Our sin is finite because we are finite creatures. But the infinite love of God is the pure, victorious love of our infinite God.
The whole purpose of God’s creation is to glorify God. The three Persons of the Trinitarian God, motivated by their essential loving nature, wanted to bestow goodness outside themselves to share the benefits of goodness, as an act of love. The Westminster Short Catechism tells us that the chief end of humanity is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. We can begin anew glorifying God and enjoying him every day as we first extend ourselves in service to the Church, living sacrificially for the sake of others within, as wise and understanding people, then welcoming the world into the fold as the love of God, demonstrated by the shalom community of those in his Kingdom, draws them also to repentance.