So I was chatting online with a friend last night and we got on the topic of how do you make your faith known to those around you who may not be followers of Christ. Is just living out our faith enough - at least at first? Or do we also have to say something right from the start? And then, in the workplace, how do we balance being a follower of Christ and making that known with not crossing lines of what is appropriate (or allowed) in terms of our expression? Should we allow the possibility of being unable to work in a specific field anymore (ie. social work, medicine, teaching) to keep us from speaking up about our beliefs? Or in those situations should we just seek to live it out the best we can and pray for opportunities where another person brings it up so we can talk about it?
When I think of these questions, the first thing that comes to mind is something from one of the early church fathers, "preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." I guess I think that ultimately the way we live our lives should be preaching the gospel. We should be reflecting Jesus to the world around us. If our actions don't reflect that, then what reason do we have to think that our words would have any meaning. Any person who knows us at all will know that our lifestyle and our words don't match, and then all the words we could say will have no use for the person because they see the disconnect.
There may be times when we should speak up and I would never discount the importance of knowing what to say in those situations or of actually saying something at those times. I just wonder if most of the time those situations shouldn't come out of someone seeing how we live first.
I don't think that choosing to just live it in front of people is necessarily keeping quiet. In many ways I think that our living it out, is another way that we "preach" the gospel to the world around us. Not keeping quiet doesn't mean we have to always be talking about it directly. It can mean we live it out consistently in front of people.
Now, when it comes to a job or profession, there are some times when it would be inappropriate to sit down with a person and preach the gospel to them. It could be because it is crossing a professional or ethical line, or it could be because we are working with vulnerable people and could have an inappropriate amount of influence on them in doing this. Those are the times when I believe it is absolutely vital that we consistently live out the gospel in front of them - that is the kind of "preaching the gospel" that we can "get away with" no matter what the circumstances.
Should we refuse to say anything in these work situations because we fear losing our job? No, I don't think so. But I do think we need to stop and think and pray about how God would want us to act in those situations. It may be best for us and what God desires for us to just live it and not say much until someone else asks us about it. This doesn't mean that if a co-worker or client/customer asks us what we're doing for the evening or on the weekend we can't say that we are going to church or Bible study if that's what we're doing. But I do think it means we say that and leave it there for them to ask further questions if they are interested. To me, this seems like having respect for the other person. We are respecting them enough to let them ask the questions rather than shoving our beliefs down their throats, which won't actually do any good. All the while, as we do our best to preach the gospel by how we live primarily, we are praying for opportunities to preach it with our words as well through conversations that we have with others that they initiate.