Modern-day Amos

 

Have you ever noticed how much better known the people and stories of the New Testament are than the Old Testament? As a bonafide history geek, I enjoy looking back at books like 1 & 2 Chronicles, the books of “minor” prophets such as Hosea and Habakkuk, and digging up some of the classic narratives from Genesis. So for something a little different this week, I thought I’d highlight some of the folks I’ve found interesting from the OT and we’ll see if their lives offer us any helpful perspectives for being a 21st Century Christian in Corporate America.

Do you ever sense that you’re in the midst of a world that never really stops and thinks about their relationship with God? Sure, lots of folks go to church, some might even tip God a $20 when the basket passes by, but the stuff they hear in the Bible (or don’t hear) and the exhortations of the minister never seem to transcend that hour on Sunday mornings…

Welcome to the life of Amos. Amos was a shepherd living in Israel about 700+ years or so before Jesus was born. Israel was in a time of prosperity, and while religious ritual was common, living God-pleasing lives was rare. God called Amos to take a break from his day job to send some prophecy to Israel’s leaders that, well, wasn’t exactly optimistic. He was quick to explain that he was an amateur (“I’m not one of your professional prophets. I certainly never trained to be one.“) and used his position among the people to tell them what God needed them to hear, and to set a bold example of devotional living for them.

This is us, friends. We might not be paid ministers, but we find ourselves in a land of prosperity, often surrounded by those that think being a Christian is about weekly church attendance. Like Amos, we should be perceptive of the differences between rituals and authentic Godly living. After using Amos to rebuke Israel for all of its immoral behavior, the Lord said, “I hate all of your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.”

So should we go and tell someone at work who is acting in an ungodly manner that their ritualistic church attendance displeases God? Maybe, but I also believe that we’re sometimes called to add perspective in the workplace in more subtle ways than what Amos was asked to do in his day.

If we lead dynamic, God-honoring lives, people are bound to notice. When they do, we should encourage them to see beyond the doldrums of rote religious service.  Can you imagine being stuck going to weekly church services while stuck in a life that was devoid of spiritual vigor? How boring. As C.S. Lewis once said,

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

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Spiritual legitimacy

I love to read history, particularly about the formation of the U.S. during the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary years. I’ve been Reading a book about Hamilton by Ron Chernow that reminded me that winning the war against Britain was just the first step towards creating a legitimately independent country. The second step, which was nearly as challenging, was making the US financially solvent. Only through millions of dollars worth of loans secured from the Dutch by John Adams, combined with the formation of the first federal bank by Hamilton (two men that, ironically, couldn’t trust one another), was our new country truly considered by others to be legitimate. It was weapons that enabled our independence, but currency that gained the trust needed to secure it.

In our modern economy, money doesn’t buy trust. In fact, it’s the opposite. The musical Cabaret got it wrong when Liza Minnelli sang that money makes our world go round. Trust is what makes the world go round. Our world is a highly interdependent ecosystem of relationships and trust is what makes those relationships legitimate. This is true of all relationships: child-parent, customer-salesperson, husband-wife, friend-friend, lender-borrower, coworker-coworker, employee-boss. Trust is the infrastructure upon which each of these relationships is built and if we want to legitimately impact our world, trust must be present in our relationships.

When it comes to faith, we should remember the role of trust in helping others grow closer to God. People come to faith through trust. Paul wrote in Romans 3:22 that, “We are made right in God’s sign when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.” Likewise, others who know that we’re Christian will over time either come to trust that our faith is true or otherwise and most of these impressions are formed on a day-to-day basis. Sure, big life moments can prove our trust, but trust is built daily. Brendan Manning (I first wrote Brendan Morrow – can anyone tell it’s Stanley Cup playoff time?) offered us this fantastic quote,

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”  

If we aspire to be positive spiritual influences in our workplace, it starts with first proving our own faith legitimate by making the small, daily decisions that allow us to build the trust of others over time.

(Speaking of trust, I’ve got some big things this week that need my attention – my new team is spending the week together in Grand Rapids, I’m celebrating an anniversary with my wife, and I still need to put the finishing touches on the message for a wedding I’m performing this Saturday… as such, I wanted to give you a head’s up that I’m going to be blogging less frequently this week but I’ll still post occasionally. Trust me.)

A ready explanation

One of the most important pieces of scripture for any Christian in the workplace is found in 1Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” In fact, 1 Peter 3 is worth a read if you’ve not yet read it. Peter tells us earlier in this chapter that we should be live in harmony with those around us, being “compassionate and humble”, and when people ask us why we are hopeful people, we should be prepared to tell them about our faith in a manner that is gentle and respectful.

And how should we prepare our explanation? Personally, I’m not big into academic explanations – I’d prefer something sincere. I once heard a pastor say that coming to faith in Christ is the realization that we are far more sinful than we’d ever imagined, but far more loved (because of our redemption through Christ) than we’d ever dare dreamed. I liked that.

As far as learning resources, the book of Romans (particularly chapter 5) is a great explanation of the Christian faith, although it should be noted that it was directed towards a first-century Jewish audience so some of the references might not make immediate sense without a study bible. For me, beyond reading the Bible itself, I’ve really enjoyed a couple of “apologetics” resources, including the book Case for Christ by Lee Stroebel. I know that the book A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell is another popular resource. Also, if you’ve not yet checked it out, go to www.gotquestions.org. In particular, I like their question of the week which can be found at: http://www.gotquestions.org/questweek.html. Anyone else have any favorite resources?

Whether we rely on Biblical references or apologetics resources, the key is that our explanation of our faith is genuine and in our own words, because just when you least expect it… someone will ask.

And that’s a good thing.