I had a conversation with a friend this week about an experience that many of us in the faith community face on multiple occasions in different seasons of life. My friend, who I will call Josh for the purposes of this post, has started a new job recently and one of the other employees has been poking fun at Josh’s faith in Jesus Christ. Even when initiating the faith conversation by asking him questions about what he believes, the coworker responds with what he believes are humorous remarks demeaning Josh’s beliefs. When our followship of Jesus drives our behavior and speech, we will certainly come across foolish to those who do not yet believe. So Josh was asking for some advice on how to handle the relationship with this coworker.
Can you relate to Josh’s predicament? Have you experienced a similar situation?
First of all, I encouraged Josh in the fact that this behavior really bothers him. I think the fact that he is really hurt by his coworker’s comments illustrates that Josh’s faith is a deep part of his identity. His commitment to being a follower of Jesus plays a primary role as he approaches all of his relationships and responsibilities.
Next, we talked about the misconception that we should avoid awkward situations and pursue comfort at all costs. I have not explored this concept enough to know from where it originates, but we tend to grow the most in awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult times, especially when it comes to relationships. To avoid these occasions at all costs is to avoid maturation.
Therefore, I suggested that Josh approach his coworker and be honest about how his comments cause Josh pain because of what his faith means to him. If Josh is able to present his case in a way that does not appear oversensitive nor severs the relationship with his coworker (but is also genuine) then it could establish a whole new level for the relationship.
One trap into which Josh began to fall is the thought process that if he could just think of the right things to say or have the right facts to present to his coworker, then he would be convinced himself to start following Jesus. The more I see God at work in the world, however, the more convinced I become that it is solely love which compels us to belief. When we focus our energy on serving the people around us (including rude and cynical coworkers) and wait for opportunities to share our stories, God seems to use these circumstances to soften hearts toward a relationship with Him.
For Josh’s coworker to get a better understanding of why and how his comments affect Josh, but even more so to see that his words do not cause Josh to serve or love him any less, can provide the best space for God to be at work on both of them.
So when we face a similar situations, could the most faithful response be to confront the person whose comments hurt our feelings, speak honestly about how and why without severing the relationship, and then continue to serve that person well while we wait for further opportunities to share what Jesus has done in our lives? (That might be the longest sentence I’ve ever written. You might want to go back and read it again…slowly.)
Do you have any other suggestions for how Josh can handle the situation?