Our Secular Life
This department in my blogasphere is dedicated to the realities of living in the World. Hmm, that sentence will sound completely bizarre to a non-Christian I realise, but will start to make sense as we go along.
What other world is there, someone might quip? Well shall we say for now that “World” is used in the sense of “Worldview”. I think that will suffice for now.
Now for Christians out there reading this, it is a constant battle of trying to live in the World and yet not let the World subvert our overarching committment to Christian ideals, beliefs and practices in our day to day activities.
It could be as simple as saying Grace in a restaurant, as subtle as not choosing to use expletives in a conversation where everyone else uses them casually and frequently. More subtle in praying privately for someone at work without their knowledge, less subtle with making your boss aware that you are not available on Sundays as you will be attending to more important matters. It could be in the way you choose to dress, the conversations (gossip) you choose to avoid or disengage from as soon as the opportunity presents. It could be your even temperament when you were cut off in traffic, and no-one else would ever know, but God. It could be the thoughts you have that even your spouse is unaware of – but you confess them to God anyway.
It is the fact that we live our lifes as an open book to God and are conscious of our actions most of the time, even the times when we do do what we shouldn’t.
The biggest contrast I would highlight here between my life as a Christian vs a non-Christian is that as a n-C I would use a thousand reasons and hundred arguments to justify anything and everything that just didn’t jibe with my annoying Christian-like conscience. I would just drown out my inner voice and that seemed to work for the most part. Over time I got more expert at ignoring and being in control of my thoughts. I can’t speak for others in their pre-Christian, non-Christian condition, but for me my conscience had this general bias for seeming to intuitively know what was right and wrong. For me now I see some of this as just my general social conditioning growing up in an era when Christian values were still pervasive in society and for having parents that had the traditional Christian work/life ethic. The other thing I see is that because God made the world and every thing in it – that it would naturally run on laws that were in harmony with God’s attributes and disposition if I can say that with deference to His infinitely more perfect qualities, power and presence. So certain things would in anyones sense be morally wrong and other things morally wholesome and good.
For the non-Christian that inner battle has largely been won by self through the thousand justifications and hundred arguments. They just need to defend that position by any threat of their conscience going over to the enemy camp and starting to talk sense. Finding fault or showing the likeness are a great set of weapons to unleash on pesky Christians and of course and I used them to some success. What does unravel the normally resilient non-Christian is real loss of control, tragic events and personal danger. In these situations, their conscience can gain a toe hold and cause them to cry out or scream out to God.
Much of the battle is an internal one and your secular friends only ever perceive your frailties and slip-ups – not the countless silent victories (over self) that you have achieved. Of course that is doubly hard because these lapses and exposures of the inate sin within us are the things we are judged with and remembered for.
If that isn’t bad enough, then even the slightest sense that we might in some way be seen as being judgemental or “Holier-than-thou” will be met with a ferocious offensive even if no such accusation or slur was made or intended.
It can often be the case that the Christian is so self-conscious as he/she negoitiates the eggshell minefield in the office canteen that they retreat to the sanctury of some quieter space – only then to raise the ire of their colleagues for being a snob or anti-social.
As we become more comfortable in our skin, Christians can learn to both engage in the conversation but be immunised to the negative influences present in any office or workplace setting.
It takes time, good judgement and a lot of grace to get the balance right. We want our colleagues to know that we are different and have a Christian ethic and outlook but we also want them to know we are approachable, available and genuine in our work relationships as well.
To paraphrase a quote I have often heard in the context of women seeking equalities in the workplace over the years “a [Christian] often has to do twice as good a job to be considered half as good as a [non-Christian]”. The original quote (in relation to woman) often quips at the end that: “…thankfully, this isn’t hard!”. That may well be true for women versus men, but I think Christians would agree that in no way are we relying on our own goodness. Better to say “…thankfully, with God that’s not only not hard, its supremely doable”.
So what I am trying to achieve with this page then, is to identify the challenges, the awkwardness, the put-downs and frustrations, but also celebrate the victories, the humanity and often the semi-concealed questioning and curiosity under the banter and sledging.
We after all owe it to our work colleagues and friends to be ever vigilent for that one golden opportunity to share something and ignite that smouldering ember deep in their hearts that yearns for meanings and answers to big questions. A simple thought, an appropriate word and a ready voice to share it.
Note to Self
There is potential for a lot of overlap between this page and the next: Our Christian Walk. In many ways that is what is supposed to happen – go figure?