It is the rare Christian who works in an environment surrounded by believers. Most of us share the workplace with the unsaved. While some are respectful and appreciative of our faith, many, like Daniel's coworker, seem to delight in making life difficult.
Vexed and frustrated, we wonder how to handle difficult coworkers and still maintain our Christian witness. Thankfully, Scripture gives good words of advice for dealing with the challenging colleagues who share our cubicles.
1. Don't be surprised by their sinfulness. We can't expect non-Christians to act like Christians. Somedays, even Christians struggle to act like Christians. When we're dealing with difficult people, it helps to remember that the natural behavior of the unsaved is to sin. While some clean up better than others, without the Holy Spirit living inside them, they have no supernatural power with which to live holy lives.
2. Remember how you behaved before Christ saved you. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church, pens a long list of sinful behaviors: sexual immorality, wickedness, idolatry, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, theft, drunkenness, greed, slander, and dishonesty.
Then he reminds the church, "that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Remembering our own lifestyles apart from Christ's transforming power is humbling. When we are humble before others, we're less likely to be prideful and judgmental.
3. Live so they have nothing evil to say about you (or the God you represent). Paul encouraged Titus, "In everything, set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:7-8).
4. Act in love toward your enemies, "do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you" (Luke 6:27-28). There is no moral or spiritual victory in repaying evil for evil; this is easy for our human nature. When we respond in ways that are contrary to what our nature desires, however, we demonstrate God's power at work in us.
Practical ways of applying this principle is to go the extra mile to help our difficult coworkers. When they curse or berate us, take a deep breath, pray for God's grace, and speak words of kindness (or silence) in response. If they say something critical, respond with a word of blessing. Many who abuse others with their speech were similarly abused themselves. You may be the only person in their lives who speaks kindly to them. This is very difficult to do, but not impossible with God's help (Philippians 4:13).
5. When you blow it, (and you will), apologize and ask for forgiveness. A humble, sincere apology is rare and profound in our world today.
6. Pray for them. Although my enemies are the last people in the world for whom I naturally want to pray, scripture commands it (Luke 6:28). As I've prayed for the difficult people with whom I've worked, sometimes God changes their hearts. He always changes mine. William Law says, "Nothing makes us love a man so much as praying for him."
Working with difficult people gives us daily opportunities to model Christ. As we behave in ways that are contrary to our nature, we are living examples of authentic Christianity.
One day Daniel noticed that Terry was absent from work. He later learned that Terry's nephew had been killed in a tragic accident.
Upon his return, Daniel expressed his sympathy, offered to pray for Terry's family, and shared a story about his own brother's recent death. At the end of the conversation, with tears in their eyes, both men embraced in an awkward hug.
Every year at Christmas, our church puts on an elaborate holiday performance to share the hope of Jesus with our unsaved neighbors and friends. Guess who sat on the front row of this year's performance?
Do you have a coworker, associate, or friend who seems to delight in making your life difficult? Will you commit, in faith, to apply one of the six steps above to your relationship beginning today?
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Lori Hatcher is the author of the blog, Hungry for God; Starving for Time, where she provides twice-weekly doses of spiritual nutrition for busy people. Like a spiritual power bar, Lori's devotions will nourish your soul on the go when you don't have time for a spiritual meal. To subscribe, click here.
You may know that Lori has a devotional book for homeschooling moms, Joy in the Journey.
With a devotional for every week of the school year, JITJ has application questions, an action step, and a prayer. It's suitable for your own devotional reading or for use by a support group for meeting ideas.
No school year is complete without it!
For more information and to read what other homeschooling moms are saying about Joy in the Journey, click here.
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