By Barbette Brophy
Diversity in the workplace is a hot topic and for many businesses it’s required training. In addition to political differences, diversity includes race, color, creed, and lifestyle differences. Christians should be well-equipped to embrace diversity. We are called to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As described in Christ’s answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor is anyone whose path we cross.
Loving Our Neighbors
There are times we can be intolerant. When we feel our views are not shared, or are ignored, or worse yet opposed, we can be uptight and uncharitable. Political discussion—even with fellow Christians who agree on moral issues—can get heated and partisan. Christ says to love your enemy and do good to those who hate you.
As a nurse, I have an opportunity to serve all types. Those the world may find hard to love, I can easily love—even the poorest and the sickest. There are others I have had to learn to love, some who are vulnerable in other ways or live a lifestyle with which I don’t agree. That has been a challenge.
Sometimes our difficulty comes from not knowing how to operate as Christians in the workplace. We can feel upset when we see sin or wrongdoing and don’t know how to respond to it. We might feel an obligation to tell someone when their behavior is wrong. Or we might avoid bad behavior by shutting ourselves off from others or fear being perceived as self-righteous.
How Do We Know What to Do?
We need to keep in mind Christ’s call to love. Then, even if we are unsure, if our reflex is to love, we will be acting in the way that Christ calls us to act in every encounter.
St. Francis is sometimes credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.” At a recent baby shower for a nurse at work everyone was enjoying themselves. The tone changed when a fellow nurse with a bit of a reputation left the room. The group began to make fun of her. A tech—who is a church goer and someone I had prayed with that morning—began impersonating her immoral lifestyle. At that point, I left the room. Noticing my exit, the tech was convicted. She approached me later and asked if they had gotten too carried away. In her heart, she already knew the answer.
My friend Mary shared the story of a Muslim coworker. The woman often wore a burka and her coworkers resented that she took so much time off for religious holidays and family obligations. They said she was not capable and lacked confidence. Mary knew the treatment was unfair. She tried to inform the woman discreetly when she made a mistake so she could correct it.
Soon the woman regularly sought Mary’s advice. They became friends and the woman shared that she was married with three kids. Mary shared her Christian faith. Believing they prayed to the same Father, the woman asked Mary to pray when her family was sick. Eventually the pettiness toward the woman subsided. She became more adept in her work and is now a valued colleague in the department.
Every difference we experience in another needs to be experienced through the love of God which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. I know that I am Christ to others, I am the Good News. And that is first and foremost.