I wrote on Wednesday here about how church elders should act respectfully towards women. In this post, with all the ongoing revelations and debate about harassment at work, I want to look at a workplace which was a harassment-free space.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful account of how the grace of God works out in the reality of life. There is a poignant moment in the story when Naomi is made aware by Ruth that she, Ruth, has been working in Boaz’s fields. The dialogue between them contains the following:
Then Ruth the Moabite said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.”’ Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ (Ruth 2:21-22).
The clear implication is that Ruth knew that Boaz’s field would be a harassment-free zone. It is interesting that Boaz’s fields were known to be a place where women would be safe. This is in contrast to other workplaces where they may well be in danger. Naomi says “in someone else’s fields you might be harmed (v22b). If you’re an employer Boaz provides an example to emulate; your workplace should be harassment-free. This should also be true of our churches. They should be harassment free spaces and the elder have a key responsibility to make them such.
But how was it that Boaz got to have such a reputation. It was not that he had obtained this through creating a male-free zone. Ruth 2:9 clearly indicates that there were men around in the fields during harvest time. So what were some of the things which fostered a harassment-free zone. Let us loo for them in Ruth 2.
- Boaz was a man of substance. In v1b we read that he was a a man of standing. He was a man of strength and courage; an upright man.
- He created a sense of God in his workplace. Let us observe this interaction: Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’ ‘The Lord bless you!’ they answered (v4). God was openly and reverently acknowledged on his farm.
- There was an interest in people. Workers were not just numbers on Boaz’s farm. When Boaz enquires of the new girl on the block, the overseer knows immediately who she was (see v.6); he has obviously found out. Moreover, Boaz himself makes enquiries about the girl’s background (see v11).
- Boaz was also proactive in establishing practices which prevented any harassment. He tells Ruth I have told the men not to lay a hand on you (v9b). He did not assume no problems would arise; he took action to make sure no problems would arise.
- It was a caring environment as well. He says to Ruth whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled (v9c)’. Then we see in vv14-16 the detailed arrangements put in place to make sure Ruth was provided for.
Work-place harassment would soon be finished if the pattern of Boaz was followed. Oh what a place this was to work. Boaz had a well-earned reputation.
So if you are an employer or any form of manger are you Boaz-like? Are you creating a harrasmenst-free space for all to work in.
And by the way a lot of this applies to churches. I dealt with how Boaz provides a pattern for how we welcome people in our churches here.
Young believers can have a tendency to not seek out older ones for advice, counsel, wisdom and general assistance. But it should not be this way. In Proverbs we read words like this:-
- Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. (Prov. 4:1)
- Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. (Prov. 4:10).
Implicit in both of these statements is the truth that older ones generally have experience of life and experience of God. Through this they have developed wisdom. This is particularly so for those with “grey hairs”. These sit there in our churches and are reservoirs of assistance for all and in particular to younger ones. So why do younger ones so often just ignore older believers?
- PRIDE. There is the pride of youth. Younger ones think that they have sufficient knowledge to handle life. Such pride is dangerous. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16:18) is what the Word of God says.
- NO RESPECT. Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord is the command in Leviticus 19:32. Old people are not respected as they should be in our society and in our churches. As a result they are so often ignored.
- OUT-OF-DATE. Old people are seen as out-of-touch with the modern world and modern ways. The spirit of those youngsters who dismissed Elisha prevails. We read of them: From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ (2 Kings 2:23).
However, we do have to say that the problem is not just one-sided. There are ways in which the older saints can deter the younger ones from coming to them.
- CARE. Older believers do not take an interest in younger ones. Scripture shows examples of older ones mentoring younger ones. Moses and Joshua and Paul with Timothy would be examples. When younger ones feel that the older ones are not interested in them they will not seek their counsel.
- DISMISSIVE. Older ones can be dismissive of younger ones, perceiving that they will not be able to contribute much to the kingdom of God. Eli, for example, seems to have been somewhat dismissive of what Samuel was experiencing. we read in 1 Samuel 3:4-5 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. If young believers are treated n a dismissive way by older believers they are not inclined to respect those older ones.
Finally, I observe that there is often not enough done in the church to cultivate oneness among the people of God. When old and young are regularly sharing their lives then there will be more of a tendency for the younger ones to seek help from older ones.
So both young and old need to work at making sure that we are drawing together for mutual benefit. This will mitigate against there being divisions among us.
There is a growing number of teenagers who are experiencing mental health problems. Here is one article on the matter. This may, to a degree, be because we are more aware of the issue now. It may also be because youngsters are more willing to talk about these things now. However, I want to present two key issues which are generating increased mental turmoil for youngsters:
1. Seeking Identity.
In previous times we used to have to work out our identity within quite fixed boundaries. Our sex was defined, our sexuality was defined and our virginity was maintained until marriage. So children could grow up with that framework and find their identity therein. There were cases where this caused distress, but this was quite limited. Now all three of these are up for grabs. You have to decide when and with whom you will lose you virginity and you have to pick and choose about your sexuality and sex. It is moral mayhem and it is leaving many casualties in its wake.
2. Social Media.
The whole matter of mental trauma is intensified by the fact that youngsters are living their lives in an online culture. They are not even allowed to explore their identity in their own private space. Everything is now out there on social media and the exploration of identity is done in front of others. So all know whether or not I am having sex, and all know about my struggles in gender defining and sexual orientation.
No wonder our youngsters feel confused. As parents we need to respond wisely to all this. Obviously we create and implement a biblical frame for these things. And we need to help them handle social media. I don’t begin to be able to give definitive advice on the social media issue. But I do know that it is a whole lot easier when a biblical frame for sexuality and identity is in place.
The young and old need each other. They need each other whether that be in society, in the family, or in the church. As a general principle the older have the wisdom and the younger have the vigour. However, one big problem is that both young and old are often distant from each other. In the church this should not be so.
One way in which the younger can bridge this gap and bring great joy to the older is through taking an interest in them. I believe that younger people just don’t realise how much blessing they can bring to older people through very simple things. A visit for example can be so special for older ones. This is particularly the case for those who rarely get out and therefore can be very lonely. Sometimes it is a phone call that can bring much encouragement to someone. Just a little thoughtfulness can bring much blessing to an older person.
So younger people think about how you can bless others. A little time and effort from you can achieve much good. Of course a key to bringing this good into the lives of others, is to make sure that you are praying. Pray about what you do so that you can effectively use your time to bless others.
One means Satan uses to nullify our spiritual effectiveness for God is by persuading us that it is too risky to move outside our “comfort zone”. As a result we settle down to a life which is of little consequence in the moving forward of the kingdom of God.
But what is a comfort zone? When we are in a situation where we surround ourselves with various people and things which protect us from uncertainty and potential danger then we are in a comfort zone. This can be true of both Individuals and organizations and therefore of Christians and Churches..
Let us think of the individual Christian. This person has found themselves a good church; they are surrounded by warm friends who support them in their spiritual walk. The preaching of the Word is sound and challenging (but not too challenging!). They engage in service for God, but do so just so long as it does not infringe upon their time and social activities.
A Church also can exist in a comfort zone. Activities carry on as they have always done. No re-arrangement of anything or introduction of new things is contemplated. Evangelism is engaged in because that is the done thing. However, beneath the surface there is the hope that only the nice people come in as a result; otherwise anyone else might disturb the church.
So as we face a new year we ask ourselves is it good to settle down in our comfort zones. Is such an approach to life compatible with a vibrant life of faith? Let us look at the issue form three directions:
- Discipleship. We read in Mark 8:34-35 concerning our LORD that he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Is it not the case that at the root of our existence within our comfort zones is the desire to save our lives. The LORD says that if this tragically is the case then we could actually be losing the lives we think that we are saving.
- Faith. Abraham is presented to us as the great exemplar of the life of faith. Concerning his initial leaving of Ur of the Chaldeans we read that by faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (Heb. 11:8). The life of faith determines that the call of God will be obeyed even though there is no awareness of what the consequences might be. Whereas the life of “comfort zones” assesses the consequences and then decides whether or not to obey God’s call.
- Example. As a general rule it is those who have stepped outside their comfort zones who have accomplished great things for God. The most perfect example of this is our Saviour Himself. He was in the ultimate comfort zone; sharing glory with the father in an eternal bliss. But knowing the divine purpose and knowing the plight of man we read Him saying in Hebrews 10:7 Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God”And it is a continual pattern throughout scripture that those used mightily by God have been willing to say “LORD if you say it I will do it regardless of the consequences”. Hebrews 11 is catalogue of such scenarios. Of Moses we read, for example, that By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Heb. 11:24-27).Moreover, as we look through the mighty servants of God down the years we see that they stepped outside their comfort zones. Think of a Harriet Hasseltine. She had met and fallen in love with Samuel Newell who was committed to be one of the first American missionaries. He was set, with four others, to go and reach the evangelized multitudes in India and the Far East. If she committed to marry him it would mean she would never see friends and family again. But she went. Read an moving account of how she left her “comfort zone” on pp31-42 of Seeing the Invisible by Faith Cook.
As we enter 2011 let us then think of where we are at as individuals and as a church. Being a Christian is a risky business! However, to truly walk by faith is the most glorious business. Where is God calling us to? Will we take the risk and say “Yes LORD I will follow” and thereby find our lives. Or will we settle back into our comfort zones and thereby lose our lives. Finally we must assert that this is not about doing reckless things according to our own whim and fancy. But it is about obeying God.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of January 2011)
As someone in their early fifties one of the great sadness I have is to see those from their late teens through to their early thirties not making their lives count for Christ. I look on and think that those young men must think that this is just a dry-run and they are going to have another chance. But this is it. This is the real thing. There is only one life and it will soon be passed and only what is done for Christ will last.
Here we have a stirring clip from Gerard Hemmings. Or listen to the whole sermon here.
Oh that the Lord would come and seize hold of those lives that are just drifting along in nothingness. Oh to see these lives mightily used for the l,ord.
And if you are one of those young men drifting through life then get before the Lord; get your life sorted out before him. And then get in touch with your church leaders or someone who can pastor you and mentor you.
Oh Lord raise up a generation of young men to be mighty servants of yourself.