How does a Christian's identity relate to his or her work?
RE:NEW, a non-profit youth and young adult ministry, held a seminar on October 17 at the Evangelical Free Church of Walnut regarding that very question. Alex Liu, a former businessman who is now preparing to be a pastor and studying at Talbot School of Theology, discussed the "Theology of Work," and how one's identity affects his or her work in various ways.
Liu, who used to work in the financial industry at a $500 million organization for a global fortune 500 company, said that an individual's conception of his or her own identity affects the underlying reason that they work.
"The world tends to label us in a lot of ways: "not good at anything,' "failure,' "loser,' for example," Liu said. "And when we believe in those labels, we end up working out of fear of failure, or to prove ourselves to everyone."
"But the enemy is called the father of lies, and we need to combat those lies with the truth of God's Word. And the Word of God says, "You are my beloved, and you are my workmanship,'" Liu added.
How does this identity in Christ affect the way one should view work? Liu said that our identity affects work in three ways.
First, he said that if our identity is in Christ, then our ultimate employer and master is Jesus, and pointed to the apostle Paul, who called himself a slave of Christ and rejoiced in that. Remembering this fact also allows the Christian to fear God first and foremost, be set apart in the workplace, and to draw the line where God's standards may be compromised, just as Daniel did in Babylon.
Second, if our identity is in Christ, then we can be who we are and not be afraid of the consequences, Liu said, adding that it's okay to fail. Instead of focusing on the results, Liu emphasized that our faithfulness to the work is what is important.
He referred to Colossians 3:23, which says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."
Liu mentioned a particular experience during his college years. Though he studied especially hard and even enjoyed studying the material in one of his classes, he said that he still ended up with a grade that was much lower than what he hoped for. He worried that his grade would affect his process with recruitment in potential businesses, but he chose to still trust in the Lord.
"Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.' Success or failure, it doesn't matter - we just work hard, that's what God calls us to do. And we can trust God regardless of the results," Liu said.
Third, Liu made the point that if our identity is in Christ, then we all should be in "full time ministry." He said that some Christians have a tendency follow this false dichotomy of the "sacred" vs. "secular" work, but that in actuality, all work is sacred when it is dedicated to the Lord.
"Full time ministry means living for Him in everything we do," Liu said. "Do not diminish the value of your work."
Many attendees responded positively to the seminar, and said that it served as a good reminder for them as they either prepare to be in the work force or are continuing on in their daily work lives.
"I was reminded to trust in the Lord, and to discern whether I'm following God's will instead of doing what I want to do," said Marcie Gaebler, an 18-year-old student at the Claremont Colleges.
Eunbin Go, 21, who also attends Claremont, said that Liu's remarks during the Q&A about resting was especially poignant for her.
"Work is good, but I was reminded that we also need to rest," Go said. "I personally feel like I overwork myself a lot, but resting well is just as important to glorify God."
The "Theology of Work" seminar was a part of a series of annual Faith Seminars hosted by RE:NEW. In the past, Faith Seminar topics included understanding Islam, and having a Christian worldview.