When you are a Christian who works in a secular work place, you have a real challenge in front of you. Even if you work in a Christian environment like a church or a non-profit, there will always be people who have a way of dragging you down rather than building you up. This is why Christian boundaries at work are such an important part of a healthy life.
Boundaries usually don’t just appear magically. Like fences around our property, we have to put in the work to build them if we hope to keep the good in and the bad out. I like the analogy of fences around a yard when it comes to personal boundaries at work because usually there will be a small gate somewhere along the fence too. We need to be able to let people into our lives as well when appropriate.
If you are a Christian, there is perhaps no better missionary field for you than your secular place of work. The goal here is not to setup an impenetrable wall where no one can break through your defenses and truly get to know you. Rather, the goal is to allow people in who you are going to help rather than people who are going to hurt you. Like a gate, you need to be able to choose when and who enters into your yard.
Christian boundaries at work keep you in control of your life. So let’s look at three of the most important boundaries for Christians in the workplace.
Christian Work Boundary #1: Be In The World, Not Of The World
It’s natural to want to be liked. And as Christians, we should be some of the most likeable people out there. Colossians 4:5-6 explains, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Philippians 4:5 states, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” And in Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells us we should “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Therefore it’s safe to say any Christian boundary we put in place at work should not hinder our personal witness towards our secular coworkers but should enhance it (we can only do this to the best of our ability as some people will get offended by our Christianity no matter how hard we try). The goal should be to protect your devotion to Christ so that your light shines brighter.
We are warned in Scripture to not love the world (I John 2:15-17) and to not be friends of the world (James 4:4), but not in the sense where we stop lovingly engaging those who don’t know Christ. Rather we are to make sure that we do not get dragged down by worldliness and become like unbelievers who live in sin and lack any focus on Christ.
Application: Don’t participate in any activities, conversations, or unethical behavior that would hinder your relationship with God. But do participate in things with unsaved people that will please Christ, help people, and be a good witness.
Christian Work Boundary #2: Treat Both Genders Equally, But Not the Same
This one needs a lot of discernment, for each situation and relationship at work with the opposite sex will be different. While Christians must strive for gender equality in the workplace, making sure both women and men are getting treated and compensated based upon their contributions and not their gender, we must also never become naive about male to female relationships.
Ephesians 5:3 offers us great counsel, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” You will have to walk with God to know when “even a hint” of inappropriateness is happening at work.
God made men and women to be attracted to one another, but acting on this is not appropriate for the workplace (or at all if you are married). With that said, the way you relate socially to people of the opposite sex at work will probably need to be different in most cases than you do to those people with your same sex. Again, we should never let these social components affect someone’s opportunity for advancement or opportunities, but we also must make sure work lines and social lines are not crossed in inappropriate ways with the opposite sex.
Application: Sometimes working alone at the office with someone of the opposite gender is unavoidable. If you are married, tell your spouse what’s going on. If you are unmarried, keep it professional. Whenever possible, keep doors open and be as transparent as possible. If you want something more with someone at work, stay within company policy and pursue social interactions outside of the workplace.
Christian Work Boundary #3: Witness Through Your Work, Not Instead of Working
As a Christian, no matter where you are, your first priority is to fulfill the Great Commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The way you fulfill the Great Commission, however, will not be same in every situation. When you are at work, remember you are there to work. Witnessing by having long conversations about Jesus when you are supposed to be accomplishing your tasks is a bad witness. Do not violate people’s personal boundaries by jamming Christ into every conversation. If you want to have a long, deep, personal conversation with someone, take them out to coffee when you are not on company time.
As Christians, our deeds reveal Christ just as much as our words. When people see us working hard, ethically, compassionately, respectfully, and consistently, then when we do have the opportunity to explain that Christ is the reason for our good character, our words will be that much more powerful because of our good reputation in the work place. Let your actions at work till the soil so people receive your words about Christ even better when you get the chance to share your faith with them.
Application: Do your job first at work. Don’t steal from the company by “witnessing” on company time. But also don’t use this as an excuse to avoid witnessing to your coworkers. Start a relationship at work, and then build a relationship outside of work to tell people more directly about Jesus Christ.