This is a follow-up to an article I recently wrote on how the Seven Army Values align with Christian values. My intent in the previous article was to show that a Christian Soldier can wholeheartedly serve in the military, since the Army’s values are not in contradiction with biblical values. In this article, I want to demonstrate that a Christian worker will not merely fit in, but will be able to significantly improve the quality of the work environment by intentionally living out the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Let me focus on just three of these nine positive character traits called the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, and self-control. I believe that I can illustrate how exhibiting this spiritual fruit as a Christian employee working in an ordinary job will have an eternal impact on those we work for, those who work for us, our peers, and our customers.
I have worked for the U.S. Army for 34 years now. In my experience, they do not teach soldiers how to love, per se. In fact, when it comes to how to respond to enemies both foreign and domestic, love is the furthest topic of discussion. Soldiers are well-trained to destroy the enemy, not to love them. (However, we know that God can use a military force to protect His people from those who do evil.)
I will maintain that a Christian soldier, even while marching off to war, can bring his or her biblical understanding and capacity to unconditionally love their fellow soldiers. They do this by acting properly to meet people’s legitimate needs, demonstrating the sacrificial love Jesus displayed on the cross.
A Christian who has learned over time to abide in Christ (John 15:5) and let the power of the Holy Spirit flow through them every day can display genuine care and concern for those they serve with who do not look like them, are from different backgrounds, etc. Moreover, the love we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we work with will be noticed by those who are not Christians. You may recall the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” (See John 13:34-35.)
This is another character trait that the Army does not seem to emphasize much, if at all. For example, a Drill Sergeant may be less effective in training soldiers with a constant smile on his or her face.
Mark Greene, in his excellent book, Fruitfulness on the Frontline, shares this keen observation: “Here, joy doesn’t mean that we have to be highly carbonated, effervescent people gamboling into every encounter like exuberant puppies. There are plenty of joyous Christian people who aren’t extroverts but who have something about them, something luminous, something that makes you pleased to see them walk into a room – even if you never get to talk to them.”
Perhaps joy is not appreciated much at your place of employment, either. However, who does not want joy in their life? Those Christians who can display this fruit of the Spirit consistently will be able to bring something unique and positive to the workplace that the world cannot possibly provide. Perhaps we need to figure out a more appropriate way to express the joy of the Lord that we all have based on the total forgiveness that we have in Christ and God’s mercy and grace that we can experience.
When we go through a trial at work, and have total confidence in God’s ability to work out all things for good, we have a sense of joy and peace that those who do not know Him cannot understand. In the context of suffering, the Apostle Peter describes it in this way: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).
People will eventually notice this radical and illogical attitude and may ask where this unexplainable joy comes from. At that moment, we have earned the right to explain to our co-workers the reason for the hope that we have in Christ. (See 1 Peter 3:15.)
This quality, last but not least in the list, is of much value to any employer. Who doesn’t want an employee who can keep his or her temper, hold their tongue, or say no to abusing harmful substances?
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia sheds some light on this key quality. “Clearly self-control does not come naturally or by hard effort but is the gift of God through His Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23) . . . There is no ultimate power over self here but only a control granted and sustained by God.”
What sets ordinary Christian workers apart from the crowd is a sharp focus on the fact that one’s actions, if not aligned with Scripture, will reflect on not only other Christians, but on Jesus Himself.
Greene shares some great insights from Ps. 92:12-15 as he describes the fruitfulness that God develops in those who consistently abide in Christ. He says, “We live to glorify God. And God is glorified as his character, his priorities, his goodness and indeed his power are expressed through our everyday lives. The goal of fruitfulness is to bring glory to God.”
I trust that you have been challenged to consider some practical ways to fully integrate your Christian faith at work on a daily basis. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to show that we are new creatures in Christ by how we interact with people in a Christlike manner.
We bring increased value to our workplaces by demonstrating that Christ lives in us. As we supernaturally, yet quite naturally display each of the qualities listed as the fruit of the Spirit, we will be a blessing to everyone we work with, which will bring glory to God the Father and will point others to Him.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, 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 is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping other ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. After serving 20 years on active duty, Russ now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Fifty articles posted on this blog have been published on numerous Christian organization’s blogs or websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, 4Word Women, Acton Institute, and The Gospel Coalition.
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