Religion in the workplace

CBC featured a news story yesterday about a Trinity Western University (TWU) graduate who alleges she was discriminated against by a wilderness tourism company because of her religion. After applying for a position with Amaruk Wilderness Corporation, Bethany Paquette received a rejection email from the company’s hiring manager who described TWU’s community standards that prohibit “sexual intimacy [outside] the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” as discriminatory. The rejection email included the explanation that “unlike Trinity Western University, we embrace diversity and the right of people to sleep with or marry whoever they want.” Lawyer Geoffrey Trotter reviews Bethany Paquette's human rights complaint with her. (Photo from CBC)Further email correspondence ensued in which it became increasingly clear that Ms. Paquette’s Christianity is incompatible with Amaruk’s business values. Ms. Paquette is now in the process of making a case against Amaruk with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

While I find it troubling that someone was rejected for a job on the basis of her Christian faith, I’m almost more troubled by a quote from Ms. Paquette herself in which she claims, “My beliefs have developed who I am as an individual, but they don’t come into play when I am doing my job.”

Really?

I would hope the opposite is true – that one’s beliefs have a profound impact on one’s work.

I would hope that my faith helps me see work in general as rooted in God’s original intent for creation: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Work is not a result of the fall into sin; humans are called to meaningful work already in Paradise.

I would hope that my faith informs me of where the skills with which I work come from. Whether it is serving, teaching, or leading, showing up daily at a farm, a factory, or an office, the talents I have are gifts from God Himself, given for the common good of those around me.

I would hope that my faith equips me to work honestly and with integrity while building community among those with whom and for whom I work. After all, I want to be like Jesus who perfectly models “speaking the truth in love,” balancing honesty with grace in every relationship.

I would hope that my faith inspires me to work hard, obeying the apostle Paul’s command: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Ultimately, my work is in service to God who calls me to glorify Him not only on Sundays, but all week long.

In summary, I’d encourage Ms. Paquette to proudly assert how her faith comes into play on the job. It’s quite possible that discriminating against that faith actually cost Amaruk one of the best employees it could have ever hired.

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Trinity Western University logoAn aside: TWU is the same university that has come under scrutiny by various Canadian law societies in recent months because of its community standards. Advocates within the LGBT community voice concerns that the university’s stance against homosexuality will create biased lawyers in its new law program. In the early 2000s when TWU was seeking to accredit its teacher training program, the BC College of Teachers took TWU to court over similar concerns that TWU would produce teachers who would discriminate against students based on sexual orientation.

Now we seem to have a Christian pushing back, claiming that she is the one being discriminated against because of her religious beliefs. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

The value of waiting

Waiting
Having gone through a season of waiting, wondering if we’d ever arrive in Rock Valley, reading about the subject in Mark Buchanan’s book Spiritual Rhythm struck a chord with me. Don’t discount how God works and faith develops even in delays.

Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan…Waiting builds faith’s backbone. The waiting is necessary to cultivate a faith to die for and live for, a faith that will literally change the world. Waiting is necessary for faith in the same way a chrysalis is necessary for a caterpillar, to change it from a grub that crawls the earth to a butterfly that dances the air. Many of Jesus’ disciples, then as now, would die for their faith. That kind of faith isn’t grown in a week. And, mostly, it’s not grown in warmth and sunshine. Miracles can take it only so far, and after that can actually stunt it. Its hardiest growth, where the roots get deep and tough, happens in darkness. (p. 52)

Great is my faithlessness

Does my faith save me?  In one sense, I don’t think so.  I’d be in trouble if I had to rely on my own faith for salvation.  Or, to clarify: I’d be in trouble if I had to rely on my own ability to be faithful.  My doubts get in the way.  I falter in following Jesus.  Inconsistencies between my beliefs and actions are embarrassingly frequent.  And this really bugs me.

So reading Psalm 91 acts like a balm for me, especially verses 3-4:

Surely [God] will save you
—- from the fowler’s snare
—- and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
—- and under his wings you will find refuge;
—- His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

That last part especially – God’s faithfulness to me is what shields me “from the stormy blast” of life’s trials and Satan’s temptations.  He wraps His loving arms around me like a bird will protect her young with her wings.  Similar to how a baby chick is too weak to defend itself, my faith all on its own would never be enough to save me.
Mustard seed
Thankfully, that’s not what God demands nor desires.  In His grace, God can do mountain-moving things with “faith as small as a mustard seed.”  I wouldn’t expect such a small kind of faith to save me from the enormity of my sin.  For that I turn to Jesus.  But I can offer my small faith as a gift to the One who is always perfectly faithful to me.  And as I do so, I pray that my faith in Jesus will grow – not in order to be saved, but because I already am.

Credit:
Graphic found at Chinny’s Soul Thoughts.

Belief and action

Many faith organizations craft a statement of beliefs, outlining the underlying principles of their work.  The people at RBC Ministries (the good folks who produce the “Our Daily Bread” devotions) take this a step further and have written a document that lists their beliefs followed by how they desire for those beliefs to impact their work.  I appreciate how they directly link what goes on in their heads and hearts with what they seek to do with their voices and hands.  Their faith has definable, observable implications.  I find that as I reread it, this could be my “statement of beliefs and actions,” too…

Because we believe the Bible is a reliable revelation of God,
—– we want our lives to reflect what the Scriptures teach us
—– about who our Creator is, what He values,
—– and what He wants to do in and through us.

Because we believe in the tri-unity of God,
—– we want our relationships to reflect
—– the unity of purpose and loving cooperation
—– by which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
—– care for one another.

Because we believe Jesus Christ is our Saviour,
Teacher, and Lord,
—– we want the attitudes He shows
—– towards His friends and enemies
—– to be our attitudes as well.

Because we believe Jesus died in our place
and rose from the dead to live His life through anyone
who will trust Him,
—– we want to spend the rest of our lives
—– letting others see that what He has done for us,
—– He can do for them as well.

Because we believe Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to be with us
and in us,
—– we want to live with a courage and confidence
—– that is not in ourselves but in Him.

Because we believe in one church, of which Jesus Christ
is the Head,
—– we want to identify with, and show our love for,
—– the family of God that crosses all lines
—– of age, race, gender, and class distinction.

Because we believe Christ makes His people ambassadors
to all nations,
—– we want to participate in a mission
—– that rises above and reaches beyond
—– all national, ethnic, and religious boundaries.

Because we believe each of us will give account of ourselves
to God,
—– we want to be so aware of our own sins that, 
—– when it becomes necessary
—– to give attention to the wrongs of others,
—– we will do so with care rather than conceit
—– and with conviction rather than condemnation.

Because we believe we are stewards of God’s creation,
—– we want to be faithful caretakers
—– of the spiritual, material, and natural resources
—– that have been entrusted to us, 
—– for the good of our neighbour
—– and for the honour of our God.

Because we believe in the promised return of Christ,
—– we want to live every day of our lives in a way
—– that reflects hope rather than despair,
—– love rather than hate,
—– and gratefulness rather than greed.

When going to church actually makes you a Christian

I’ve seen this posted on Facebook and tweeted one too many times: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”

alt

Oh really?

This saying gets a lot of mileage (“kilometerage” as my mom encourages us to say in Metricland) in North American evangelical Christian circles where it’s okay for one’s faith to be private and individualistic:  Faith is between you and God.  Period.  This mentality fits well into a larger culture that pushes us to do whatever we like (so long as we’re not not hurting anyone):  You want to be a Christian?  Go for it, if that’s what powers your warp drive.  Just do it on your own time and don’t let it interfere with the rest of us.”  And off one goes to explore one’s personal spirituality.

Doesn’t it occur to anyone how preposterous this is?  How anti-biblical this is?

Nowhere in the New Testament will you find a churchless Christianity.  Consider the example of the apostle Paul in Acts 20-21:  Here we find the trailblazing missionary “in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost” (20:16).  Paul badly wants to meet and worship with the elders and other people of Jerusalem.  You’d think that after years in the church-planting and church-discipling business, Paul would appreciate some time alone at a private retreat somewhere secluded along the Mediterranean.  Had you suggested it to him, he probably would have looked at you with a look of complete incomprehension.

As Monica and I read a while ago in our devotions,

Paul knew the strength of his ministry depended on his coming together with the disciples.  It was in coming together for worship and the common meal (Eucharist) that the disciples gathered strength and courage to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to a hostile world.

When we are in Christ, we are part of something that’s much bigger than what (Who!) is in our heart.  Whether we realize it or not, we’re connected with sisters and brothers who span all time and space.  This is the “invisible church.”

Yet the invisible church is never sufficient.  How do we connect with invisible people?  How are we discipled, encouraged, helped, challenged, cared for by “something out there somewhere?”  Jesus’ intention is to place us in the “visible church.”  Among fellow flesh-and-blood, fallen yet imagebearing people of God, we are the words and hands and feet of Jesus for others as others are for us, which in turn trains us to be the words and hands and feet of Jesus for people who don’t know Him yet.

Understanding what the apostle Paul knew, John Stott gets it right when he writes:

The Lord … didn’t add [people] to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church.  Salvation and church membership went together; they still do.  (John Stott, The Living Church, p. 32)

Faithless < > Faithful

Crazy Love by Francis ChanIn his book Crazy Love Francis Chan asks,

—–What are you doing right now
—–that requires faith?
(p. 124)

When the question was first posed to him in a class at Bible college, Francis Chan came to the conclusion that he wasn’t really doing anything in particular that required a whole lot of faith.  He figured his everyday life wouldn’t be a whole lot different for him if he didn’t believe in God.

On the one hand, I empathize with Francis Chan.  A lot of times I’ll make plans and run with them, only afterwards asking God to “baptize” them with His blessing.  And then there are the occasions when I find myself completely overwhelmed by some situation only to discover that not once have I brought it to God in prayer.  I don’t think I’m the only one to profess a trust in God … as long as everything’s in control, there’s money in the bank, I’m healthy, and the right people think well of me.  I say I live by faith … but I have my backups and safety nets in place as best as I can just in case the unknown happens.  So often I go on my own strength, and only when I really run stuck will I turn to God.  (Of course, there’s something to be said about needing to live wisely and responsibly…)

Having confessed that, there’s also a part of me that would answer the question by saying “Everything!”  You think being a human being, husband, father, friend, and pastor is something I can do well naturally?!  If it weren’t for the gift of faith and for the reality of God’s grace and Spirit, I wouldn’t be who I am doing what I do.  None of it would exist.  I don’t think I’d exist!

So I feel it’s a bit of a trick question.  Sure, asking it challenges you, but it might also create undue guilt.

Related to this is a better quote from the book that I want to be able to honestly say myself more and more:

I’m thankful for the unknowns and that I don’t have control, because it makes me run to God. (p. 45)

Faith for a bargain

I dog-eared this page in my devotional booklet back in August and I reread it often.  Especially think about the prayer at the end.  The suggested reading is Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16.

“We found some people who were in deep financial trouble and had to get rid of their boat. We got it for practically nothing!”

It was a bargain. It was sharp dealing. But was it right? To look for and find someone on whose misfortune one could capitalize? Greed may be the most insidious of sins because it is so accepted. Hasn’t everyone done just exactly what this family did, for a house, a car, a bicycle? Much of our lives are spent pursuing bargains, something for nothing.

Many people have the same attitude about their spiritual lives: Get as much as possible for as little as possible. God, the church, and Christianity are supposed to meet all their spiritual needs at bargain prices. There are religion shoppers, too. And there are those who think God is so desperate for souls that he will surely lower the requirements at the last moment. But as far as we know, there are no bargain days in heaven and God is not desperate.

“Lord, I don’t want a bargain. I want you.”

Well done

Dwight L. Moody was once speaking about Jesus’ parable where several servants are entrusted to their master’s wealth.  As Moody ended his address, he said with all the energy in him:

I am glad the Lord did not say to anyone, “Well done, good and successful servant,” but “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

These are among the last of Jesus’ words before His arrest and crucifixion.  As He is about to do something remarkable, something never conceived of before in the history of the world, He does not instruct us to try achieving similar remarkable feats.  Instead, Jesus promises to see our fidelity, our ongoing, perhaps sometimes even plodding or hesitant commitment to Him.

I don’t feel all that successful according to many of the standards that are in my face.  But this gives me hope.  There are other measures of success.

Backhanded compliment

A church go’er wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me can’t remember a single one of them. So I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”

This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today.”

::

This humorous anecdote has been on up on my office door for quite some time.  It makes a good point, one that I often make: Faith is cumulative.  Faith is not a one-time thing.  Maybe one worship service does not minister to you much.  Maybe a season of worship services does not minister to you much.  Well, keep coming!  You might be surprised how God is feeding your spirit without you realizing it.  (To say nothing about how worship is not first of all meant to be something that ministers to us…)

So the story has a good point.

But I cannot help but wonder what the man’s wife might have sarcastically said about his letter to the editor…  “For the life of you, you cannot remember a single one of the meals I’ve lovingly made for you?!  Thanks a lot, Dear!”

As a pastor, I can sometimes hear myself saying that about my sermons.

Power to change

I found this meditation in Forward Day By Day most encouraging.  The part at the very end is especially profound in how it gives hope for times when it feels like my faith is lacking as well as in how it challenges me to not to place a sort of expectations on others that God doesn’t.

The LORD God says through the prophet Ezekiel: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

One of the false assumptions operating in the world today, leaving wasted lives in its wake, is that if you can find the key, you can apply it to yourself and change yourself. Many people, captured by this assumption, wander from new thing to new thing, each promising to be the key that will bring some real change in character and behaviour. One such person went through physical fitness, higher education, religion, sensitivity training, radical politics, and escapist novels. None of these effected any real change in his life. It is not true that a person can change himself.

Only God can change a person. Only God has the power to reach inside you and cleanse you of your guilt, heal you of the effects of others’ sins, empower you to desire and obtain a whole new set of priorities and considerations, and behave consistently in an increasingly Christ-like manner. God is not reluctant to exercise this power, but he must be asked and believed, though not as thoroughly as one might think. God only needs the slimmest faith to move in and effortlessly to achieve the changes we have so arduously tried to accomplish.

Charting spiritual growth

A church in Ottawa – Highland Park Wesleyan – exists “to be disciples who go out and make disciples.”  It’s not an original purpose statement: What church family doesn’t desire to grow and multiply as disciples?  What is original is how Highland Park literally charts what that purpose statement looks like.  This graphic adapted from the vision page of their website outlines milestones in discipleship that helps me think about spiritual growth in a fresh and very visual way…

Spiritual Growth Chart (click to enlarge)