Liturgy: “Love Has a Transforming Effect”

If we use love to make decisions, in big and small ways, that will build the kind of culture that God wants to see. And the good news is, it will very often be good for us as well.

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What is the King’s Liturgy? King’s Liturgy defines our experience together as a Christian community. It outlines the rhythms we celebrate with the Church at large: Scripture readings, Sabbath habits, and celebration of Holy Days and historical events.

This Week’s Lectionary Readings:
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41
Psalm 23

This week’s liturgy is contributed by Matt Perman, Director of Career Development:

The mission of King’s is to transform society. That’s an excellent mission. Now, how do we do that?

One of the chief ways is through our work. Our work matters in itself and it is also one way in which people can come to see more about Christ—live and in person. Many people who would never encounter a pastor, for example, do encounter Christians through their everyday work. And so it is crucial that we know how to represent our faith in tactful, appropriate, and non-pushy ways—and at the right times.

I’ve made some humorous mistakes here. During my senior year in college I was interviewing at a major insurance company for my first full-time job after graduation. As the interview was reaching the end, one of the members on the committee asked the classic question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I was unprepared.

I wanted to be honest in my answer, and I also saw this as an opportunity to bring up my faith. But lacking a good understanding of how to frame my answer in a way that would fit the context of the interview, I simply said: “I want to be a missionary.”

You could have heard a pin drop in that room. They had no idea what to say. Everyone was silent for a good five seconds, which seemed like an eternity. I had made two big job interview mistakes (at least for that era).

First, I had indicated that I did not see myself as staying with the company long-term. Today, long-term employment with a company is rarer and the average Millennial changes jobs every few years—and will perhaps even change careers over the course of their life. But at that time, my answer said: “This guy might not stick around long enough for us to get a sufficient return on the costs of training him in and becoming productive in the job.”

Second, I had brought religion into the interview. Though today the trend is to “bring your whole self to work,” that is still something that needs to be done tactfully. And I had just dropped it out of the blue.

The head of the committee finally said “well, that’s very admirable.” I nodded, having no idea what to say next. I don’t recall what happened after this, other than the fact that I did not get the job.

If that interview is an example of how not to bring your faith into your work, what is? The most common answer today is excellence. That is a crucial thing, and I agree that it is essential. But it is not enough. Ephesians 5:8-14 shows us that there is something else that needs to go along with this: love.

The key to transforming society is excellent work done in love. Anyone can be excellent. But rare is the person in the workplace who operates with a genuine good-will toward others—toward customers, co-workers, bosses, and those who work for them. Those who genuinely care about others in their work make better decisions for the customer and create a workplace climate of high morale and employee engagement—qualities which have been shown by research to increase productivity and profits.

Where is love commanded in this text? When we are told to “discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” We all know what is pleasing to the Lord: love. This is stated explicitly in verse 2: “Walk in love, as Christ loved us.” And the context here is all of life, not just church. It includes the workplace and all of our interactions in society.

What happens when we walk in love? Verse 13 tells us: “When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” At first the text can feel a bit obscure, but the point is this: Love has a transforming effect. As you walk in the light, some people will themselves become light—that is, Christians. JB Phillips paraphrases this verse perfectly: “It is even possible (after all, it happened to you!) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also.”

So what should I have said in that interview instead? I wouldn’t have had to bring the gospel up at all, though perhaps that would have been OK also. But coming at it with this perspective on love (along with good principles on career navigation), perhaps something like this would have been good: “There are lots of different possibilities for where I will be in five years, and I will gain clarity on that as I test out my ideas through real-world experience. But through all of this I have one guiding principle: to use my abilities to bring as much value as I can to the company I work for. I am on the lookout for ways to make a positive difference and to grow in my strengths, and that is the criteria I will use to make my career decisions over the next five years.”

If we use love to make decisions, in big and small ways, that will build the kind of culture that God wants to see. And the good news is, it will very often be good for us as well.

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