Witnessing for Christ in Hostile Territory 1 Corinthians 11:1 and Matthew 10:16
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
In last week’s blog, I cautioned against hiding or downplaying your faith so as to fit in with unbelievers. Of course, living out your beliefs in what some of my counseling clients describe as hostile territory can be easier said than done. Consequently, this week I recommend an approach to witnessing for Christ that is effective in any environment, Scripturally-sound, and won’t violate the corporate policies of even the most secular organizations.
Most Christians want to heed the admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:1 where Christ tells us to be imitators of him. This can be a difficult challenge when doing so subjects you to pressure, rejection, and even threats, but don’t despair. Whether in school, on the job, or in any other environment, you can be a faithful witness for Christ. The key to doing so is found in Christ’s own words where he tells us in 1 Corinthians 11 to be imitators of him.
Imitating Christ means setting a Christ-like example in all we do. You do not have to hand out tracts or verbally evangelize to spread the Gospel. In fact, in some settings these approaches are not appropriate. But don’t despair. There is an approach to witnessing for Christ that is not just appropriate in any setting, it is also effective. No matter what setting you find yourself in, you can show others the face of Christ by how you do your work, treat other people, make decisions, respond to challenges, and behave in emergencies. In other words, set a Christ-like example for the people you interact with. Consistently setting a Christ-like example in all aspects of your life may be the most effective form of witnessing there is.
For believers, appropriate responses to anti-Christian pressure, rejection, and even persecution are those that exemplify the teachings of Scripture. They are responses that personify what is written in Titus 2:7. In this verse we are told to show ourselves to be models of “good works.” This verse also admonishes us to demonstrate “integrity” and “dignity” in our teaching. Remember that you teach best by example. You can set a Christ-like example in even the most hostile territory because doing so means being honest, loving, caring, dependable, conscientious, and industrious. Even the most hardened rejectors of Christ appreciate interacting with people who personify these Christ-like traits.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand how difficult it can be to respond to temptation, rejection, and pressure in ways that are consistent with the teaching of Christ. Secular humanism, moral relativism, and political correctness, permeate all aspects of American society generating ever-increasing levels of anti-Christian bias. Swimming upstream against the current of anti-Christian bias is not easy. I don’t want to understate this fact. This is why I tell my counseling clients who are struggling with this issue to remember Christ’s instructions to his Apostles before sending them out to spread the Gospel. In Matthew 10:16 Christ told the Apostles they were going to be like sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, they would have to be both wise and innocent. This is good advice for you too.
Before retiring, John was a successful CPA for a highly-rated accounting firm. He was also a dedicated Christian who made a point of always setting a Christ-like example for others (he still is). His boss, the firm’s CEO, liked John and knew he was someone who could help the company compete. But there was a problem. Many of the firm’s larger clients liked to sample the nightlife when they were in town reviewing their accounts, and they expected John and his colleagues to join them. John had no problem treating clients to a nice meal, but he drew the line at some of their more raucous activities. When his clients hit the nightclubs and bars, John bowed out and went home. When a large client complained about John’s reluctance to join him for some after-hours partying, this committed believer found himself in the crosshairs of an angry boss.
By the time he was called on the carpet, John had prayed, sought Scriptural guidance, and discussed the situation with his pastor. Now all that remained was for John to respond to his boss in a manner that was both wise and innocent. In the meeting with his boss, John was respectful and humble, but firm. He explained that the types of things some of the firm’s clients liked to do for fun violated his Christian beliefs. But he didn’t stop there. He also explained that the type of behavior the client in question liked to engage in would not pass the front-page test.
When his boss looked confused, John explained that the front-page test was a simple method he used for evaluating all of his activities and decisions. The test amounts to asking yourself just one question: If your behavior in a given situation were to be reported on the front page of the local newspaper, complete with photos, would you be proud of yourself or embarrassed? John expressed doubt that the company’s top CPAs being seen carousing in bars like college students on spring break would pass the front-page test. He also expressed doubt that it would help the firm’s image with the majority of its clients or the public in general. John explained that the issue was bigger than just his personal beliefs. It was a matter that could affect the firm’s credibility and corporate image.
The CEO listened to John, but didn’t respond. Saying only that they would talk again later, he ended the meeting. After several days had passed, the CEO asked John to stop by his office. John, who had been waiting on pins and needles, didn’t know if he was going to be reprimanded, demoted, or sacked. But he was determined to be steadfast. Regardless of what came next, he intended to remain faithful to his Christian beliefs.
As soon as John was seated, the CEO handed him a document. Certain it was a letter of reprimand or worse, John began reading with trepidation. When John’s face registered confusion, his boss—with just the hint of a smile—explained that the document was a new corporate policy he was going to enact right away. The policy required all employees to apply the front-page test to their behavior when representing the firm in any capacity, during work and after hours.
John prevailed in this situation not just because he was resolute in defending his Christian beliefs, but also because he was wise in how he did it. Rather than restrict his concerns to his religious beliefs, John showed how the issue was also about the credibility and image of the CPA firm. He explained his reservations against forays into bars and nightclubs in terms his CEO, an unbeliever, could understand. John’s boss might not have appreciated the CPA’s Christian beliefs, but he did appreciate his Christian example and how that example could help the company he ran. By explaining his personal beliefs in terms the CEO could relate to John helped himself, but he also helped his employer.
If you spend time in an environment that is hostile to Christianity, follow John’s lead: 1) set a consistent Christ-like example for others, and 2) heed the admonition of Christ in Matthew 10:16 when you are confronted by challenges to your faith. What worked for John will work for you too.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com