In 2007 I started working for the United States Department of State in its Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs. The State Department is the lead diplomatic agency within the United States government charged with advancing the president’s foreign policy goals.
On a typical day my colleagues and I might negotiate agreements to sell American goods abroad, help a U.S. citizen who has fallen ill while traveling internationally, or work with other governments to protect Americans from threats beyond our borders. More specifically, in my office I advise senior leaders on how to best spend approximately $1 billion in foreign aid annually that the U.S. Congress gives to advance democracy, the rule of law, and economic growth in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In this role, I believe God uses me in two ways. First, to advance the principles of justice and human dignity through the substance of my work; and second, through my daily speech, manner, and acts toward the people with whom I work.
Daniel, the Old Testament prophet and exile, is the quintessential “minister ” working for God through the levers of government. Like Daniel, I serve a government with global influence. And like the ancient Babylonian empire, it is also a government that did not rise merely by chance; instead, like all governments, it exists as an instrument of God’s sovereign will, providing law and order to a greater or lesser degree.
At present, much of my day is spent advising senior leaders on how best to direct American foreign aid to respond to the crisis in Ukraine and other affected countries. This work does not directly advance the gospel, but in the example of Ukraine it does help to protect the lives of innocent people, and to hold accountable others who may have committed war crimes. It also assists in providing ordinary people with their basic needs.
It is because a Supreme Being exists who is good that the universe is governed by principles of justice and love. So when I work to advance democracy and the rule of law in a country such as Ukraine, I am serving God, because it is His will that a woman driven from her home by conflict has shelter, food, and education for her children; it is His will that any who have taken the lives of the innocent are brought to justice; and it is His will that families have the means to provide for their children and make a life for themselves that is meaningful and good.
But Daniel did not witness for God only in carrying out the policies of the Babylonian government and advising the king. We know he also exercised extraordinary influence personally by the kind of man he was, pointing others directly to the one true God.
A simple thing such as diet was one of the early ways in which Daniel was able to show his faith in God. Like Daniel, I speak and act in ways that are a direct result of my knowing Christ and my desire to please him.
The ways this happens are very simple and natural. I’m careful about how I speak, including avoiding profanities. This is a characteristic that is most often noticed. Colleagues often remark on it, and quickly apologize if they use an expletive while talking to me or in a meeting in which I am present. Another example, which also surprises me, as I know my temper and tendency to get irritated, is that my colleagues perceive me as being very calm and not easily angered or ruffled. Knowing myself, the extent to which this perception is true is surely an act of God, and in remarking on it, my colleagues are seeing the work of the Spirit in my life.
Finally, just as our speech and manner can evince the sweet savor of Christ, my love for my colleagues is another way I may reveal Him. Just today I learned that a colleague with whom I have worked for 15 years has been ill. It is easy for me to offer to pick up groceries for her or help in other simple, practical ways.
One of my staff just bought his first house. I believe I can show my interest and love for him in genuinely sharing his excitement about this step that he and his wife have taken.
As a supervisor, I also have an opportunity to show Christ by putting my staff’s development and advancement above my own, showing a genuine concern for them as they deal with issues at work or home. The State Department, like any workplace, is bursting with opportunities such as these, and they represent perhaps the greatest field of endeavor for all of us—whether in the employment of the church or not.