I am a strong Christian who has a corporate job and occasionally my co-workers want to go out for Happy Hour. I normally don't go because I am not really comfortable in the bar scene, but I am seeing that my co-workers who go seem to have a better rapport with each other at work and I just read an article that talks about how it can actually help your career. I have no interest in drinking at the Happy Hour, but is it wrong for me to go for the social aspect and to build relationships? As a Christian I want to be a light to the world, but I also want to be relatable so that they will be more open to listen to me when I give godly advice. What is the right thing to do?
JE from Michigan
Two birds, one stone (Part 1)
Well we have two issues here. One is the social aspect which also ties in with career building. The other one is spiritual and how this fits with being a Christian witness in whatever field God has planted you. Let's try to address both.
First, I wonder where Jesus would show up if he ministered today instead of 2000 years ago. People were scandalized at the time with his choice of associates. That is hard for us to relate to now because our culture is so different. We don't see that dinner at the house of a tax collector is any big deal but the religious leaders of his time certainly did.
Jesus said very clearly: "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32) So I think he would go anywhere sinners are and that's pretty much everywhere. Christians too often gradually diminish their circle of friends and acquaintances to only other Christians. It's easier in many ways, I'll grant you that. But that was not Jesus' call and it is not our call.
There is nothing intrinsically evil about going to Happy Hour with friends or co-workers after work. What is essential though is how you conduct yourself. You are called to be an ambassador for Christ to the world. Ambassadors don't want to embarrass their home country and your home country is God's Kingdom. Be careful how you represent it. You may be the only sample they ever get.
Therefore, I think it is wise that you have "no interest in drinking" at these events. Even if you feel that drinking is permissible, this may not be the best time for it. Fortunately for you, not drinking is now perfectly in style and no one cares if you sit there with a Coke or a ginger ale.
What should we say to someone who objects that your motives are not totally spiritual? You mention wanting a better rapport with co-workers and helping your career. There is nothing wrong with that either. It is very true that networking is a key to career success and most of networking takes place outside work hours. I would say, in fact, that you are simply killing two birds with one stone.