The world of work and our experience of it is changing. Office workers wish to work from home and cafes and bars want them back in the office because city centre trade is falling. Doctors are finding that telephone appointments are giving greater efficiency and an ability to ‘see’ more patients, while patients long for a face-to-face meeting with their GP. Brexit allows us to restrict the entry of migrants from other countries, but now we are short of lorry drivers, and some suggest that Christmas supplies and choices may be restricted. Energy prices are rising, universal credit is being reduced, and wages are frozen until next year at the earliest, while food prices are on the rise. Many say that they will have to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table.
In the New Testament we find that the world of work was not only where Jesus was often found, but also through his parables and conversations, it became a key arena through which his followers could discover and understand the nature of their calling. As faithful followers of Jesus is work something that gets in the way of our discipleship or an opportunity through which to express it?
Phil Jump and I believe it to be the latter, but our purpose in our book, Love: Work. Reflections and Prayers for a World at Work, is not so much to make the case for that, which is well outlined in other publications, but to offer some practical resources to those who share this conviction.
There are many of us who, for various reasons, are not engaged in regular formal employment. However, seldom, if ever, will a day go by when we do not interact and engage with people at work. Even if we are not employees, business owners or traders, when we switch on our radio, visit a hospital, travel into town or read a newspaper, we engage with someone’s working day. Whether we recognise it or not, our perception of the world of work in general is bound to shape our attitude to them and the job that they do – a role that is likely to occupy a significant part of their life. If we consider it to be of no importance or interest, we are in effect expressing a similar attitude to him or her as a person. If we believe ourselves to be ambassadors of Christ, this communicates a message that God is not interested in a significant part of who they are and what they do.
Love: Work seeks to offer ways of living out our calling to love God and love our neighbour (Matt. 22:34-40). Such things are easy to say, but through each of the Ten Commandments, which shape our book, we offer a way of putting this into practice by adopting a deliberate attitude of mind that can be an expression of Christian discipleship in just about any context.
Our diversity as a community of God’s people is reflected in not only the different gifts and personalities that we each have, but the very different lives that we will find ourselves living as we fulfil our roles and responsibilities in the world around us. These different gifts and callings are nonetheless described as the work of one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11) and make up the one body of believers.
This is also true in our places of work. Every member of the working community is important and has their part to play in the success of the whole. Within the world of work there is a diverse community including the decision makers, innovators, cleaners, creative designers, labourers, IT experts, administrators, catering staff, supermarket staff, security personnel and manufacturers. Relationships must extend beyond any single workplace, for there is a close interdependence between suppliers, service providers, customers, competitors, regulators and clients. All are needed, or as Paul said of the body of Christ, all are part of the body, whatever our human judgement may be.
As disciples of Jesus, we too are part of the networks and structures that comprise the world of work, and we will play our part in the common purpose of workplace communities, but we do so as the dispersed Body of Christ.
We might often find ourselves in situations where we feel we have little flexibility and choice. However, the attitude with which we engage is always ours to determine:
My diary may be filled by others;
My schedules set by systems beyond my control;
My shift patterns and working hours,
Might not be mine to question.
I can only serve the next customer in the line,
And take nothing but the next assignment that arrives.
But mine is the choice to live as a child of God this day;
Mine to embrace its endeavours as one called to walk in God’s ways;
Mine to determine the attitude I adopt;
Mine to define success and achievement.
So clothe me in the likeness of Christ;
Equip me to be a true disciple;
Inspire me to seek your holy purposes,
Not by separating myself from the things of this world,
But through my engagement at their core.
John Weaver is a retired Baptist minister and was Principal of South Wales Baptist College and Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Cardiff University. He is a former President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and is Vice Chair of the Industrial Christian Fellowship. LOVE: WORK… Reflections and Prayers for a World of Work is available at your Christian bookshop or online.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.