“What are you? Some sort of Jesus freak?” “What, are you too good for us now?” “You actually believe in God?” “The Catholic Church is evil!”
Several people have asked me the question, “How do you live your faith in the world; like as a student, a scientist, a computer programmer or in another secular career? This is a great question! How do we live our faith daily without being too overbearing, too fearful, or just plain compromising?” Here are just 5 pro-tips you need to live your faith anywhere.
If you would like to watch the YouTube video of this blog instead, click here.
The first thing you need to do every day is pray! People who do not pray everyday or keep God close to them are like soldiers going off to war without a weapon. They won’t make it. And, how can they defend themselves? Now, I’m not talking praying for a couple minutes before bed each night if you have time. I’m talking real prayer. Focused prayer. Praying with renewed fervor for at least 20-30 minutes a day. (Maybe 10-15 in the morning and again at night?)
Set aside intentional time for God each day is a must if we have any hope of living holy in an unholy world. So, carve out a good prayer time each day, or night, (or both) and beg God to help you to live your faith, to be holy, joyful, kind, and a good example. Similarly, read the Bible, the New Testament especially. Take time to reflect on what you read (or another spiritual book). Pray the Rosary. Use this time too to reflect on your life too and areas you can improve in. This is key to keeping your faith in non-faith environments.
#2. Be a Good Example
Strive to live like Jesus all the time, and not just on Sundays. We do not want to be a good example of Jesus but a great example, and that includes being an example of: love, kindness, peace, patience, understanding, obedience; honesty, being trustworthy, and being a hard worker, etc. Since we represent our Lord, we do not want to be lazy or involved in things we should not be doing. (You never know who is watching.)
#3. Do Not Act Like Everyone Else
If everyone else at your job curses, says the F word, gossips, tells dirty jokes, is dishonest, you have nothing to do with it. Now, you don’t need to judge them, look down on them, or be all awkward about it, but as we said above, strive hard to be a great example in every area of your life.
What merit is there in acting like everyone else does, and how is that living your faith and being set apart? It’s like what Jesus says in the book of Matthew, “If you greet those who greet you, and if you’re nice to those who are nice to you, what profit is that? Even pagans and tax collectors do the same.” So if you swear like everyone else, what makes you a Christian? If you gossip, are dishonest, look at dirty magazines, get drunk, or many other things, what makes you different? What says Christian to those around you?
The fact is we must not only talk the talk, but we must walk the walk. Then people will see that you are different and say things like; “Hey, what’s different about you?” Or, “Why do you act like this?” “I’ve never heard you swear or tell a dirty joke. You don’t even gossip.”
In past jobs, I have had people come up to me and ask, “Hey, are you a Christian because you do X, Y, or Z?” It is because I live my faith and try to be a good example that people ask me this question. Later on, they may ask more about it, and I can then share my faith if they are open. However, the major component here striving to be a good example and working on the areas you need improvement on. If you gossip, clean that up. If you complain all the time, start offering it all up to God in love. If you cheat on tests, start studying or getting extra help. If you are crabby or lethargic at work or school, begin serving others intentionally and work on being more joyful.
How can you be a better example and witness?
#4. Be Strong!
To follow Christ and love Him in secular environments is difficult! No doubt. After all, who wants to feel like the odd man out? Think of it as living outside your natural habitat in an unfriendly environment with dangerous animals who don’t always like what you say or what you stand for. Question for consideration: Do we care about the opinion of God or the opinion of others more?
This too is difficult which is why we need to pray often to be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid to live your faith. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to be labeled as a Jesus freak, as a Christian, because it means you’re right, and that you are on the right track. If everyone else is driving with flat tires, don’t be embarrassed that yours are inflated! Jesus said, if people made fun of Him, they will make fun of us too. However, He also promised to give us the strength to overcome. Pro-Tip: If you are extra nice, kind, loving, and joyful, people will like you even if they strongly disagree with your views. Remember that.
If people make call you out on your faith, say something like: “Hey, I love my faith; I’ll live it every day of the week. You can make fun of it, but I love God and my faith a lot.” They may respond with “What? You like being Catholic?” And you can boldly say, “Yeah, I do, it’s awesome.” [Insert big smile]. This will make people think. After all, they are looking for something that is good, true, and beautiful.
They may push back saying something like, “But there are so many rules! Who needs that?” You could respond by saying, “We have rules everywhere in society and in marriages. We can’t go kill anyone we want. Likewise, we can’t go get drunk and beat someone up. Rules make society orderly and civilized. They are a good thing.” They may retort, “True, but the Catholic Church has too many rules.” Just respond, “Really, how many do they have in all, and how many is too many? Also, how many would you say our country has in all? There are a ton there too. Again, it’s a good thing.” [Insert friendly smile]
Now I’ve worked in many of these difficult environments where some people swear the F-word like 6 times in one sentence. They take God’s name in vain, talk endlessly about sexual grossness, and more. Sometimes, it was difficult to be around it all. So, I would eat lunch elsewhere from time to time and read my Bible. You know, that was so much more inspiring! And doing so gave me more peace, joy, and courage to go back to work and be a good example.
I have been made fun of for my faith and it’s expected. It comes with the territory. Just realize that. At a restaurant once, I slipped on a piece of ice and almost killed myself. Instead of saying, “holy sh..” like I would have in my old days, I cried out “Holy Moses!”
One of the big, psycho looking cooks was surprised. Turning to me, he said, “Did you just say Moses?”
Me: Um, yeah.
Him: “What are you? Some sort of religious freak or something?”
Me: Um, yeah, something like that. [Friendly smile]
He not only told all the other cooks, but he then nicknamed me Moses. Thanks only to the Holy Spirit, I did not back down or become embarrassed by this. God helped me to be strong and to own it. Every once in a while, I’d hear this same guy take God’s name in vain, and I would walk up to him and say super nicely but firmly, “Hey! I love God!” Then, I would give a big smile. He would almost always reply saying, “I don’t care church boy, get the F out of my face!”
This went on for a couple weeks until one say he almost broke down and cried right in front of me. We were prep-cooking in the back one day, and he opened to me some of his life story telling me that his dad never wanted him, and that he never had a dad since two years old. Because I was real and true and never backed down, He respected me and trusted me. A year later, this same person came to believe in God; he even bought a Jesus clock to hang in his kitchen! Even though he made fun of me, he confessed to me that I became one of only two people in the whole world that he respected… all because I was loving and never backed down in my faith. So you never know who’s life you will touch.
I was firm, loving, and never a jerk. I never shoved my faith down anyone’s throat nor was I arrogant or preachy. It all starts with prayer and having that relationship with Jesus and having Christ first in your life. Likewise, it is important to keep friends nearby who are faithful and live for God. They can be a source of strength and comfort too.
#6. Learn Your Faith
In order to do live our faith anywhere and survive being different, we must know how to explain our beliefs which presumes we know them well in the first place. So, pick up one book, or watch some of my YouTube videos here. Second, practice on your own what you will say if certain topics come up — or come up again. Practice a back and forth in your mind as to what they might say and what you will say in return. This is KEY! This will help you to be more prepared and not as nervous.
We also need to know how to listen to the Holy Spirit and pick our battles. Not everything needs to be said or commented on, but we should also not hide our faith in the closet for fear of being different. Get God. Get His strength. Be His light to the world always. Remember: if you’re living for the world, you can’t live for Jesus. If you live for Jesus, you’re going to come into conflict with the world. So be prepared, pray, be persistent in your faith, and live for Jesus in your thoughts, words, and actions. Pray to the Holy Spirit for what to say and when, and let Him empower you more and more each day!