The office is sometimes like a war zone. For some, their typical workday is fire fighting. For others, it is dealing with deadlines, tricky interpersonal relationships, and perhaps, even backstabbing colleagues.
Working in a Christian ministry does not spare me from the constant challenge of dealing with human-related problems, namely failures, weaknesses, and miscommunication. Preacher author Timothy Keller observed, “People are messy. Therefore, relationships will be messy.” Hence wherever you work, it’s inevitable that we all will face the giant called Dismay.
For those of us working in a Christian organization or serving in church, it is important to remember that we are soldiers in the same camp. Our battle is for souls and for the truth, not personal glory. Our enemy is not one another, but Satan who seeks to undermine our efforts by creating disunity.
In Deuteronomy 20:5-8, we read an interesting passage concerning the rules of engagement in war. The literal imperatives do not apply to us now, but the principles are still relevant.
Firstly, unity does not necessary mean “all for one, one for all.” We do not need to demand that everybody put in the same intensity, or stand in the frontline. If any man has “built a new house and has not dedicated it” let him go back to his house (v.5). And if any man who “has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit”, let him go back to his house (v.6). Domestic duties are important to God too.
What does this mean practically in our day and age? Perhaps, it means an adjustment of our expectations of our fellow colleagues or church mate; or a willingness to listen and empathize; or checking our desire to compare portions. Perhaps, it means being understanding, which involve getting to know the issues that our colleague is facing beyond the workplace. Is something distracting him or her? Is there another matter that he or she needs to attend to which is just as important as accomplishing the mission of the organization? Apart from being understanding, we need to be sensitive to know when to let our fellow colleagues or church mate go so that they can attend to their domestic duties and not hinder both work.
Secondly, soldiers work as a team; we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much if we do not have each other. If one person were not in the right or best condition, it would affect the other soldiers’ morale. Hence, if “there are any man who is fearful and fainthearted . . . let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own” (v.8).
What does this mean? It shows us that God is fully aware of human frailties. Sometimes, we may need to allow a person to step down, or leave the rank and file amiably. Or perhaps, we may need to come aside for a while to regain courage.
Not participating in the “war” with fellow comrades might not be exactly bad because the provision for exemption also tells us that God does not need to depend on every last man fighting.
In battling the giant called Dismay, our weapon is God’s Word. It’s the sword of truth that will straighten our thoughts, rule our emotions, and influence our behavior.