Blog - Embodying Truth

Respect for Co-Workers—a Mark of Love

Friday, May 15, 2009

If the lifestyles of co-workers fall short, we can easily begin thinking of ourselves—even subconsciously—as somewhat superior. But in the instructions New Testament writers penned for those in first-century workplaces—and for us—the word “respect” becomes a theme:

· Paul writes that Christian slaves are to “be obedient to those who are your physical masters, having respect for them and eager concern to please them” (Eph. 6:5, Amplified Bible).

· When he reminded Timothy of what to teach those in the workplace, Paul wrote: “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers” (I Tim. 6:1-2).

· Peter wrote the same kind of workplace instructions: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (I Pet. 2:18).

· “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders” (I. Thess. 4:11-12).

The words translated as “respect” in English come from various Greek terms. But they all direct us to value those we work with—even when those over us are unbelievers. If we picture love for neighbor as a beam of light shining through a prism, one of the primary colors refracted from it would be respect. Real respect is not just a show of niceness to pry open witnessing opportunities. Instead, it is genuine agape love that seeks the best for the other person.

Heather, a friend of ours, worked as one of three bankruptcy paralegals in a small office of five people. One of the other paralegals was a Christian; the other was not. “When the non-Christian paralegal first began working with me,” Heather says, “she let me know that some of my word choices irritated her. I had a habit of describing something that annoyed me as ‘retarded.' For example, if a TV ad offended me, I'd refer to it as‘such a retarded commercial.' After my co-worker objected to my language, I told her I'd stop using the word. She told me that wouldn't be necessary, but I recognized how much it bothered her and wanted to show her I cared about her.

“I didn't see this as spreading the gospel, but as trying to show God's love to an unbeliever through my actions. And I wanted to avoid giving her any reason to dislike or avoid Christians or Christ, since I had made it clear to her that I was a believer. She quickly noticed and appreciated the change. So far I've succeeded in eliminating that adjective from my vocabulary—and she and I have become good friends. We still have all kinds of discussions about God and Jesus and life. I continue to pray that God will give me wisdom as we talk and that she will accept him as Lord of her life.”

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