Many of us have been there. A boss, co-worker, or even the work conditions are draining, depressing, or even toxic. The employee might be in an environment that does not align with his or her own values. The boss is an equal opportunity “yeller.” Gossip is rampant, nastiness is all around, or a systematic dishonesty exists.
The first temptation for a Christian is to start looking for a new job, and for some, this might be a viable option. There are, after all, employers that align with Christian values or at least has a healthy work environment. Others might be tempted to fall into a sort of a depression, to disengage mentally and give up on the workplace, or to even write it all off and justify your lack of passion about your work. But hear this: before you leave physically or mentally from your work, there are other options to consider.
Here’s the problem: I believe that in a sense, people relate with one another in the way that we should relate to God. In the gospels, Jesus affirmed the Shema (Deut 6:4-6, Mark 12:30) in saying that we should love God with all of our “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and in so doing we are fulfilling the greatest commandment. In the same way, He affirms our need to love our neighbors as ourself. And the truth is that none of us are good at either, which is the crux of the problem. It’s even worse for the person who does not have a relationship with Christ because they are not going to possess a consistently God-centered ethic.
A Christian has a difficult enough time following these commands in a healthy environment, but a boss or coworkers who willingly tramples on these commands for various reasons makes it even harder. This is why when a Christian works for an organization in which the environment is decidedly anti-Christian, tension almost certainly going to develop. Employees and employers that do the opposite of either of the two greatest commands will affect everyone inwardly and outwardly. Moral and ethical dilemmas are bound to appear and godly principles violated. More tension, more conflict for the Christian.
So what does a Christian do? First of all, remember that many Christians have worked in far worse evil conditions over the years than the United States of the 21st century, at least from the perspective of persecution. Christians have endured through the martyrdoms of Ancient Rome, the beatings of the slaveholding South, the insanity of Nazi Germany (see Bonhoeffer), and the persecutions of Christians in various countries today. Yet through these times, Christians continued to hold to those Great Commands- they continued to love God, to work for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23), and remained salt and light to many (Mt 5:13-16). They overcame evil with good, and darkness with light. What’s encouraging is that these are not super Christians but ordinary people, dedicated to Christ and living in the Spirit!
That said, I get it- being salt and light is going to be hard in such an environment. It’s hard enough to do in a healthy environment, but even worse when you are fighting the battle day after day. And yes, if another opportunity exists to be in a better environment, this might be a time to go- if God leads. But Christians are not always called to the “easy,” and the truth is, we are all in a spiritual war, under attack by an enemy who hates us. Besides, this world is not our own, and we as the citizens of heaven are looking to a different Kingdom than the kingdom of man. And since you are in enemy territory, expect to do battle in the Spirit, no matter who your employer is or what your work environment might be like.
So what do you do? Change your mindset and remember your calling as a follower of Christ, carrying out the mission given to you by Jesus. You can change your environment, affecting the lives of others around you who are also caught up in the toxicity in your workplace. But to do that, you need to be ready- to purposely live in the Spirit, to be in the Word, to discipline yourself for godliness, and to humbly love those around you as yourself. Most of all and whatever you do, remember your calling- a calling beyond the immediate, a calling for life and for eternity, a calling to love God and for the glory of God.