In a recent poll on Vision’s Facebook page, more than 70 per cent said yes – Christians do wears masks and hide their faith at work. And in a culture where Biblical values are going out of fashion, and weakness in any form is heavily discouraged, is it any wonder?
But Andrew Laird, from City Bible Forum, says being “unmasked” in the workplace can be attractive to others, and also glorify God.
The Life at Work Conference, usually held in Melbourne, headed to other capital cities for the first time this year. The conference, which discusses the relationship between our walk and our work, this year explored the strength that can come from showing your vulnerability to your colleagues.
The conference’s keynote speakers are all people of faith in positions of power, proving that even in today’s secular culture, having Jesus as your referee won’t get your resume thrown out. Ian Harper is Dean of the Melbourne Business School and sits on the board for the Reserve Bank of Australia. Lieutenant Colonel Carney Elias is one of the most powerful women in the Australian Defence Force.
Andrew Laird, who also spoke at the conference, believes this could be thanks to, not in spite of their beliefs. Each of them discussed how showing their vulnerability, surprisingly, has benefited them. When Michael Spence, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney, lost his wife to cancer, the honest way he dealt with his grief actually earned him more respect from his colleagues.
Andrew shared about his personal struggle, and how he tried to hide it from everyone around him. “I burnt out very significantly from overwork. There were a number of factors driving that, and as a result, the way that burnout manifested itself was in terms of some pretty paralysing anxiety.”
Laird compares his experience to 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul pleads with God to take the thorn from his flesh. God refuses, but promises Paul something far better than his wish. Just as he did for Paul, God gave Laird the strength and grace to get through something that he could never have endured alone.
In his talks at the conference, he encouraged attendees to take off the masks society demands we wear, and reveal our true selves.
“But I think the call for the Christian person is to be honest, is to be real, recognising, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, that actually when we are weak, we will have an experience of God’s strength and enabling that we might not have had if we thought we could do it ourselves.”
“But even more than that, his power, and his strength, will be seen all the more clearly in our lives when we do. And so, we’re to step out in faith, if you like, and take that risk, of recognising that this might be for His glory in our life.”
Of course, there’s another danger some of us are increasingly aware of. The examples of Israel Folau and Margaret Court have led many to worry that talking about their Faith at work could lead to persecution, or even cost them their jobs. Laird has heard that concern raised more and more recently, and he agrees it’s justified.
But he also warns us not to let fear shape our lives. “If there’s one characteristic that I see absent, if you like, in the New Testament amongst Christian believers there, it’s fear. Indeed, perfect love drives out fear. Fear is not meant to be a hallmark of the Christian person, because they can have confidence, that they trust in the sovereign God who rules over all things, and the hope of eternity that they have.”
This probably won’t happen to you, but Daniel never hid his allegiance, even when it meant being thrown into the lions’ den, and remember, that story had a happy ending. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul describes how, if we’re confident in our identity in Christ, we don’t worry about what other people think of us.
The Apostle Peter urges us to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”. (1 Peter 2:12 NIV)
Features of an authentic Christian life include honesty, integrity and servant leadership, all of which also make for a trustworthy worker, and a likeable person.
So, Andrew says that when we talk about our Faith, we’re being judged on more than the words we say in the moment. “That text comes in the context of a life that has been lived differently. And in my own personal experience, people I talk to as well, they have found that when they have said currently controversial things about controversial topics in the workplace, colleagues have responded ‘well, I don’t agree with that, but I like you, and so I’ll give that view a hearing’.”
There’s something else important to remember as well. Because we live in a fallen world, we know we’re not the only ones who will go through hard times. “Everyone has problems. All of our colleagues do. It’s not just us. And they’re all wearing a mask too, trying to make it look like everything’s ok.”
“But if we have been unmasked in the workplace, and known as someone who is familiar with weakness and difficulty in our own life, I think that creates a trust in our colleagues that I can be unmasked with them too. If they’ve been so honest with me, then they’re a safe person for me to share my issues and struggles and challenges and brokenness and difficulty with as well.”
“And when they do, they’re inviting us to speak in that moment, and tell them the reason for the hope that we have.”
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