I was reminded of something of major theological importance at work this week. I had taken for granted and had not given much thought to it. I had never even addressed in my writing on various theology of work topics over the past four years.
An abundance of fellowship
It occurred to me after our Tuesday lunchtime Bible study that I and my brothers and sisters who attend this study have a rare gift. We have the freedom to meet regularly where we can learn about God’s word, fellowship, pray for, and care for one another. The army chaplains who have facilitated have rotated out every two or three years, but we have kept a consistent study going.
What has been so great about this group? I love our diversity. We have men and women from different denominations and races, Soldiers and civilians, young and old, folks who retired from the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, and folks from the Chemical School side of the house and others from the Military Police School. Every one of us joined together in the family of God through our faith in Jesus Christ; each one eager to learn and grow in wisdom and knowledge.
An honest assessment
As I reflect on my military career over the past 34 years, I have not always had the opportunity to fellowship with a dozen fellow Christ-followers where I have served. As a matter of fact, in some of my assignments, I may have been the only believer. To be totally open, I am not sure this even bothered me much. I usually had plenty of fellowship in our church or chapel.
I do recall a unique experience in my second tour in the Republic of Korea from 2003-2004. I worked for the brigade staff operations officer, a soft-spoken African-American major. It is hard for me to remember how or when we learned that we were both strong Christians, but it did not take long. I do recall that he took the initiative to see if I would be willing to pray with him in his office on occasion. He was a big manly man; I think he played football in college. But I can still feel his huge hands gently holding mine as we prayed for our wives and families back home and for our leaders, and I can see the tears streaming down his face. Such sweet fellowship!
However, this was a rare experience for me. For several of my assignments, mostly due to the nature of my job as a chemical noncommissioned officer, I would spend much of my time alone. As an introvert and a Christian who practiced the presence of God, that usually suited me just fine. But looking back I do think that I may have missed out on some of God’s blessings that come when His people come together to build each other up.
An opportunity to practice the “one anothers”
Let me return to my lunchtime Bible study group. On Wednesday evening, as I was about to head out the door of our headquarters building, I noticed one of my sisters in Christ talking on the phone next to the window. I did not want to disturb her. As I walked by, I sensed the Lord wanted me to give her a word of encouragement. She was one of the few members of the Bible study group who was a Facebook friend. She had posted a few inspiring things lately, and she had responded to some of my posts. I wanted to thank her specifically for her kind words.
I turned around and went back. She had just finished her call, so I reached out. For the next five minutes, she and I had the best conversation. We talked about how much we enjoyed our study group. She mentioned how valuable it was to know that there were other Christians at work who knew what it was like to be working in a secular organization who could encourage each other to stand fast against the schemes of the devil. We both were grateful there were fellow believers who we could share our prayer requests with. I also expressed appreciation that we could continue to fellowship outside of the Bible study on social media, where we could rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
This is what I realized at that moment. I had been proactive in allowing God to use me at work through my work as I took care of Soldiers, served my customers, and accomplished the missions I was given. However, it seems like I may have missed opportunities to deepen my relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ along the way. I had been practicing doing those things that the New Testament writers instructed the church to do with fellow believers: love one another, be devoted to one another, exhort one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc. But I had been doing it at church. I had not been nearly as intentional doing this at work.
An invitation to see the Body of Christ at work while at work
What are the benefits of taking the time to deliberately interact in a biblical way with our brothers and sisters in Christ who God placed in our midst so that we could build each other up?
In addition to the benefits we enjoy when we actually obey what the Bible tells us to do, and beyond the value of the encouragement we feel when others pray for us, I think it is worth indicating another benefit that causes the Body of Christ to grow in quality and quantity.
When our unbelieving co-workers see our love for one another, a love that is full of grace and truth supernatural, unconditional, and one which crosses all human boundaries that divide the world because we are one in Christ, they will take notice. We used to sing this song at retreats: “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Christ’s love draws people to Him.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.