Blog - Mirroring God

Compassion for Co-Workers

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sohail gave the would-be thief $40 and a loaf of bread. One blogger responded to the story in these words: “Wow, a Muslim that acts in a more Christian way than most Christians.” It's hard to miss two main points in this writer's reaction: (1) Compassion is the “Christian way;” and (2) Most Christians don't act that way.

God's revelation of himself in Scripture and in his Son, Jesus, has led the world to see compassion as the Christian way. From Moses to Malachi, Old Testament writers marveled at God's compassion. And when Jesus came, as the complete revelation of the Father, he was frequently moved with compassion. But as the writer's words suggest, perhaps the world has not seen so clearly the revelation of God's compassion through us Christians.

Our workplaces offer one of the best contexts for showing compassion—as illustrated in a man we'll call “Frank.” Frank works for a global pharmaceutical firm as a regional sales director, a role that requires him to make life-altering, hiring/firing decisions. As a Christ-follower, Frank has found that such decisions require more than just bottom-line, profit-and-loss considerations. Into such choices he seeks to incorporate Christ's compassion.

For example, one man on his sales team was nearing retirement when the company discontinued his position. Frank found another position, near the man's home in Seattle, which would involve no cut in pay. The older man could not take the second position immediately, so Frank held it open for him. In time, when the man began working in his new role, it became obvious he could not adjust to the new responsibilities. This time the compassionate action meant helping the man face the truth and letting him go. Afterward, the man thanked Frank for both his caring heart and his willingness to tell him the truth.

Another of Frank's sales representatives, a reserve officer in the National Guard, was called to serve in Iraq. Frank's company had no policy about holding positions open for those who had to leave for military deployment. Even so, Frank pledged to the soldier that his job would be waiting for him upon his return after 18 months. This sales rep had been responsible for one of the larger territories in Frank's region, so Frank had to sell the commitment to his sales manager.

A year-and-a-half later, when the man returned, he shook Frank's hand, pressing into it a coin-like disk. One side carried an army reserve emblem and the other side an outline map of Iraq along with the name of the mission just finished. “Thank you,” said the soldier. “You have no idea what it meant to me and my family to have no worries about my coming back to a job. So many bosses of my fellow soldiers simply don't live by your standards.” A year after his return from Iraq, the company recognized this reinstated sales representative for being in the top one-percent globally in total sales. The man still sends Frank a thank-you card every year.

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