Some of you may know that I work with David Ortiz. David and I have worked together, in various ways, shapes and forms since 1989. We’ve worked as coworkers, we’ve worked as customer and supplier, I’ve been David’s boss and today he’s my boss. It’s kind of weird now that I think about it; I can’t think of two other people with as long and as varied a work relationship as David and I have.
Now, to add another layer of complexity, we’ve also worked together as believer and non-believer: David being the believer and me being the non-believer. That was, in fact, the state of our relationship from 1989 through 2000, when I became a believer. For reasons I understand now but that were oblivious to me then, David had targeted me through those years we worked together as believer and non-believer.
Not every day, but on a regular basis, David would engage me in an ontological discussion. I use that $10 word, “ontological,” by the way, because it captures my hard-hearted, intellectual, arms-length view of God and faith at that time and, at least, MY approach to our talks. Ontology is the word secular philosophers use to describe a discussion on the nature of being and faith; I picked it up in a college philosophy class. Ontology is, essentially, the opposite of pursuing a personal relationship with God.
Remarkably, my desire to keep our conversations intellectual and impersonal never seemed to deter David. Nor did my attempts to knock him off his Christian horse. I remember one time glibly remarking, “You know the old expression, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes’? I think there’s a corollary to that saying relating to our conversation: ‘There are no Christians in the workplace.’” I thought that was a really clever rejoinder to whatever David had been saying to me, my point being that whatever people considered themselves outside of work they didn’t much act like Christians at work.
David reacted like I’d physically hit him. “Oh man, that’s convicting,” he said. I was confused by his response. Convicting how? Why? For whom? I had no idea what he was talking about and wouldn’t until many years later. At the time I just shrugged it off as one of those mysterious things David would sometimes say and moved on to thinking about what I was going to have for lunch.
Fast forward maybe ten years and you would find David and me praying together in that very same conference room where I’d tossed off my “Christians in the workplace” comment and I am asking Christ into my life. How’d that happen? The version of myself from ten years earlier would have been shocked. Frankly, I’m still kind of shocked, even in retrospect.
How that happened is that David never allowed me to chase him away and kind of held down the fort until another important believer (my future wife) entered the picture. I know I often think that evangelizing is something special or heroic or hard to do, something outside the realm of normal, routine living. And there’s no doubt that evangelizing CAN be that, but I think evangelizing is likely more often accomplished by believers living their everyday lives openly and authentically, by giving their non-believing family, friends and coworkers a clear, unobstructed view into a Christ-centered life.
You know, it doesn’t only have to be atheists at work; Christians get to roam there as well.