Conversation flowed. We connected. It was going well. Smiles. Nods. Quiet laughter. Then, a glance at my resume. A mention of my writing –a skill worth noting on a resume. Communication skills a plus. Writing talent a boon. Publication an achievement that speaks to excellence, perseverance, and determination. But, you know, I write for Jesus.
There’s no hiding the nature of my writing (and why would I?) since two of three of my books mention Jesus right in the title – so, it’s out there. Which for me is a gift. It keeps me from hiding in moments when my old sin nature beckons me to slink back to my old ways, to be less than God designed me to be, tempted to place Him in a box. I see a slight eye flicker as the interviewer looks them over. There’s a brief clarification of the genre. Yes, I write for the Christian market.
Another nod and smile, but then, the question. The tone is casual, but the question is not benign: “How will you keep your faith from interfering with your job?”
I’m sorry, what?
Replaying the chat, of course I see I should have asked a clarifying question myself. Jesus knew to ask a question before He answered one. “What is your specific concern?” or “Has this been a problem with other employees?” or “Is this a something you ask every applicant?”
But, it’s an interview, I need the job, and we’re solidly in the question/answer mode. Plus, it’s my personality to maintain the relationship, avoid confrontation, look for the work around. God is working on me but it’s still my default. If we were in court, I would hear the judge respond to my objection, “I’ll allow it since your resume opened the door to this line of questioning,” so I respond:
“Well, my faith informs the excellence with which I do my job so I don’t think you want me to keep it from “interfering.” If lying or committing fraud are part of the job, it will definitely interfere, but I don’t think that’s how you operate here, so we’re good. (polite laughter at this) I think you’re asking if I’m judgmental. I’m not, but that’s because of my faith, not in spite of it. Have I answered what you’re asking?”
Smiles. Handshakes. The interview ends on a hopeful note, but it leaves a strange aftertaste.
How easily I joined the narrative, the implication that I would naturally understand their assumption that my faith is a problem, that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to contain my judgmental views, no one wants to hire a trouble-maker so, of course, they have to ask. Why did I enter that narrative so willingly, with a smile, without resistance?
And as I’ve told this story, some believers have shrugged and said, “Oh, they’re worried you would proselytize or refuse to do something that’s unbiblical. That’s all it was.” WHY ARE WE HOLDING HANDS WITH THE STORY THE WORLD TELLS ABOUT US?
Did my answer give them the idea that I’m one of those “acceptable” Christians? One who believes Jesus would never tell anyone their actions or attitudes were sinful? One who follows the domesticated, generic Christ who never would have been dangerous enough to have to die like a thief on a cross? Surely not someone who follows the wild-eyed Jesus who wove a whip and said such hard things he turned away crowds! Did I come across as a compliant believer? One who would never cause trouble?
Some would say that’s good but I know my own tendency to stay quiet, to fear trouble, to avoid making waves, to stink at sharing my faith, to capitulate hard truth, so the conversation frightened me. How subtly, smilingly, I can be encouraged to “play nice” and only bring the “agreeable side” of my faith to work.
How will you keep your faith from interfering with your job? I replay that moment and consider other answers, better answers, answers that refuse to walk hand-in-hand down the corridor of the false narrative being spun in our times.
“Will my faith interfere with my job? Why? Do you anticipate asking me to lie, commit fraud, steal, or conspire in deception? If so, then my faith may interfere. My faith has taught me that no matter what I do, to do it as for Jesus, so I bring that integrity with me to the workplace, surely you wouldn’t prefer I leave it at home?”
“Will my faith interfere with my job? In other jobs, people appreciate the love, compassion, respect, and generosity of spirit I extend to everyone I encounter, as instructed by my faith. Will that be a problem in this workplace? I’m not sure I can learn to work without being kind, honest, patient, and loyal. You may have to consider someone else.”
“Will my faith interfere with my job? Why? Is this a place where people must conform, where conversations are monitored and screened, where people check their souls at the door, where ideas pass through a filter before being aired? Is this a place where freedom has been given a shelf on the same locker in which I place my lunch?
When did we start buying into the story that others tell about us? Loving and following Jesus is what makes us someone you want at your place of business. In all we do, we work as if we’re doing it for Him so our work bears the mark of excellence, integrity, truth, and creativity – because every day we are more like Jesus.
They offered the job. I said no. It’s a small thing – no sacrifice because I had another option. I’m just one person in the smallest state but we have to start, in small ways, to refuse to align with the lies. To say no to any narrative that says the world’s story is the true one, not the one we live.
I only tell this story now so you’ll be ready for the question: How will you keep your faith from interfering with your job? What will be your answer?
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) August 1, 2016
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