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We are Called to Love Sacrificially in our Business

1 Corinthians 13 is a very familiar chapter on love, often read at weddings at memorials. Despite its broad applications, the love being referenced in this chapter is agape love, which is distinct from phileo (brotherly love) and eros (romantic affection). Agape love is defined by utter devotion and selflessness towards others, perfectly exemplified in the life and death of Jesus, a love characterized by sacrifice.

It is fairly to easy to see how agape love applies to the Christian walk in general, but how should it be practiced in the context of Christian business? How can a Christian businessperson, who is on a mission to create and steward a profitable business, do so sacrificially? Aren't business and sacrifice opposite ends of the spectrum?

Let's look at some of the individual virtues that Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 13, starting in verse 4:

"love is patient"

We are called to be patient with our clients, with our supervisors, with our co-workers, with governing authorities. Sharp words and quick reactions do not display godly love.

"love is kind and is not jealous"

When that co-worker gets the promotion instead of us, we should not be bitter. When a customer is rude or demanding, we should not respond harshly. When a competitor lands a nice contract, we should not harbor jealousy.

"love does not brag and is not arrogant"

It is hard for us as businesspeople to maintain humility in success, especially when we feel we have to constantly market and promote ourselves to show our competence. There isn't a hard and fast rule for Christian professional humility, but we need to examine our conscience when we post on social media or list our accomplishments. If we feel a pinprick of guilt while doing self-promotion, we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we might be arrogant rather than humble. Promotion is key to gaining new business but it does not mean that we need to exalt ourselves in boastful ways.

"love does not take into account a wrong suffered"

God loves justice and laws are established for a reason. That being said, when we experience injustice from a client, co-worker, or supervisor, sometimes the godly thing to do is to absorb the impact. This is what forgiveness means, to take on the consequences of someone else's sinful actions and not respond with eye-for-an-eye. Jesus took the consequences of our sin upon Himself, allowing the Father to forgive our sins. The sequence was broken, the reverberations stilled. This is a clear picture of sacrifice, and as Christians, we are called to sometimes make that sacrifice so that God's name can be magnified. How and when that happens is between us and God, but we should be attuned to the Holy Spirit's promptings when given an opportunity to demonstrate this act of love.

"love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things"

These don't sound like four steps to success; some might say they sound like how to be a doormat for people take advantage of you. And that may happen sometimes. Yet we are commanded to be hopeful people, not cynical, not looking for faults, not jumping ship at the first sign of trouble. The Christian walk is characterized by endurance and perseverance, and this is how faith is built.

Being a Christian businessperson doesn't mean that now we play by the world's rules, that Biblical principles are for church and family but not for the cutthroat business world. God is sovereign over everything, including our businesses, and we must act in faith according to the commands of Scripture, even if it seems counterintuitive to traditional business sense. Success is defined by running the race and finishing well, and our true reward awaits us at the finish line.

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