While the Holy Cross is still fresh in our minds from yesterday’s glorious processions in every Orthodox Church throughout the world, I thought I would take the opportunity this week to discuss different ways we could take up our cross in our life, if we are wanting to follow Christ into heaven. Today I want you to consider how and when you can take up your cross at work.
It is a widely known fact that the earliest Christians were persecuted by the political and religious elites. It wasn’t that they were always killed for Christ, but in their willingness to follow Christ in every aspect of their lives, they were witnesses to the power of the Cross in their lives, not just Christ. The veneration of the Cross was almost immediate in Christian circles, but that did not always take the form of lifting a large wooden cross in the town square, as that would have meant sure death.
For the earliest Christians, venerating the power of the Cross meant to live by a standard of Christian morals that was not normal in their society. It meant their way of life would be noticeable by their neighbors. Sometimes it meant dying for their faith, other times it “just meant” being persecuted. It is the persecution without death that we can also experience today as modern Christians at work.
There are many professional associations in which membership represents a certain standard of ethics that set aside their members from others within a profession. When you do business with the association members, you can expect these standards as common and dependable. Have you ever considered forming an Orthodox Christian Association within your profession? Normally in these professional associations, standards are limited to standards within the profession, but an Orthodox Christian association would include other moral standards.
Imagine working in an office environment in which people are treated with love rather than being seen as competition. Imagine an office environment in which the boss considered himself or herself last, and treated employees as equal members of the team. Imagine an office environment in which gossip was not tolerated but replaced with mutual support in times of need. On the surface these issues might seem basic, but in today’s society which constantly reinforces individual power and achievement, mutual respect is rarely genuine and often a tactic for getting ahead in business. If it doesn’t help us get ahead, we don’t do it.
Now imagine what it would be like if YOU were the only one living by such standards in your office. Would you be willing to be the ONLY member of the staff to refuse to gossip, or bend the rules “just” so you could be promoted? Would you be willing to be the ONLY one at work to give others the credit on job performance even when it means being passed up for that promotion? Imagine what others would think and say about YOU. Just as in the ancient Church, YOU would be the odd one in the room and that could even mean losing job opportunities, since many would not be comfortable having a “silly Christian” around the office.
When Christ invited us to take up our cross, He wasn’t only speaking about the large wooden cross that stands behind the Holy Altar, or the golden cross we hang around our neck. The cross we are invited to take up is the daily willingness to be persecuted for our faith and morals. When you go to work this week, consider what cross you are presented with, and ask yourself if you are willing to take it up for your salvation. “For what would it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8.36)