Monthly Archives: September 2018

Unity and Division

“Small wonder that pride gives birth to division, and love to unity.” St. Augustine

As an attorney for an oil company during most of my career, I saw many examples of St. Augustine’s statement play out in the corporate world, particularly in cases of multi-party litigation.

In one such case a west coast oil company had filed a patent on a particular gasoline formula mandated by the state of California.  Since the gasoline formula was required by a state regulation, everyone assumed the formula was in the public domain and could not be patented.  Still, the company who filed the patent brought a patent infringement case against all other refiners selling gasoline in the state, including my company.

So, we had one plaintiff company on one side and a dozen defendant companies on the other.  Sometimes there would be as many as thirty lawyers present at the defendants’ joint counsel meetings.  The pride of supposed expertise of a number of the lawyers made it difficult to establish a unified defense.  As a result, a case characterized by some of the defendants as a “slam dunk,” was lost at both trial and on appeal.

Let me offer another example in contrast to the one above.

When I retired from my company, I went to work for Christians in Commerce, a Christian ministry to the workplace.   After about a year, we brought our executive committee together at a retreat house in northern Virginia to pray about our vision and mission, and the direction the ministry should be taking in the years ahead.

The Executive Committee was made of five people with very diverse business backgrounds, including leadership positions in banking, advertising, insurance, a former international airline pilot and myself.   In spite of our diversity, we all had a love for God, respect for one another and a desire to seek God’s will for the ministry.

We spent the first day primarily in prayer and discussion with the following scripture becoming prominent in our thinking: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)  This gave rise to the belief that God wanted us to expand his kingdom by “being Christ in the workplace.”  We believed he was calling us to encourage and equip Christians to bring the presence of Christ into their workplaces in terms of how work is done.

Our love for God and one another brought a unity of purpose both then and now to our efforts.  After several years this unity has evolved into a vision for Christians in Commerce of “Being Christ in the Workplace,” and a mission, “to encourage and equip Christians to be God’s presence in the workplace by the power of the Holy Spirit, exercising faith, integrity and excellence.”

There is no end to what love of God and love for one another can accomplish! 

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

 

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A Light Burden

IMG_0048“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:30)

Robert Bellarmine, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church in the sixteenth century, asked what is this burden that does not weigh heavy or this yoke that not does not weary.  He says, “It is, of course, that first and greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” 

Mark reports Jesus’ more complete statement as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

This is a love that involves all aspects of our being – our heart and soul, encompassing our non-physical nature and inner being; our mind involving our intellect; and our strength, involving our physical actions.  In other words, it is a total and complete love.

I have a friend Paul, whose daughter Maria has been ministering to orphaned children with special needs in Uganda.  Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities there are often viewed as cursed, outcasts, unwanted and unloved.   For the last couple of years, Maria, who is only 20, has been working through the Gem Foundation in ministering to the children.

One thing Maria observed was that a high percentage of the children actually had parents, but they didn’t have the resources or societal support to care for their children and pay for their medical expenses, often leading to maltreatment and abandonment.

So this August, Maria changed her vocation from caring directly for the children to helping to develop an organization that will train, empower and provide micro-finance and employment for parents so that they will have the resources to care for their children instead of abandoning them.

Maria is loving these children with her heart and soul.  She is loving them with her intellect in coming up with the idea to develop the means for the parents to provide for the children themselves instead of abandoning them.  Finally, she is loving them with her strength in the actions she is taking in helping to form this new enterprise with an organization called Imprint Hope Center.

We might ask how this example of the love of God is a light burden.  It is filled with sacrifice and self-giving.  But when love is complete, it is filled with a joy that sustains and transcends personal sacrifice. 

This is how the rest of us, who might never be called to serve children with special needs in Africa, can relate to Maria’s example.   We all seek a life filled with purpose, fulfillment and happiness.  When we truly love God and our neighbor as he commands, our joy is complete and our burden is light.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11: 28-30)

Overcoming the Crowd

“Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:48) 

When Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting beside the road outside of Jericho learned that Jesus was passing by, he began to shout.  He was seeking to ask Jesus to heal him of his blindness.  Mark tells us that the crowd that was following Jesus rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be quiet, but he disregarded the crowd and shouted all the more.

Jesus rewarded his perseverance, restored his sight and said, “Your faith has healed you.”

Like Bartimaeus, we too, may experience the crowd in rebuking us and telling us to keep silent in our quest for Jesus.  

It is tempting to go with the flow of the crowd and do what is popular or easy, but the crowd is usually wrong.  It was the crowd that yelled, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” (Mt. 27:22-23)  It was the crowd in the Roman Colosseum that took delight in the persecution of Christians in the early centuries of the church.

Sometimes the crowd is a work environment demanding us to be available 24/7 to the detriment of family and other important responsibilities.  Sometimes the crowd is the government when it attempts to force a baker to conduct his business in a manner contrary to his Christian beliefs and values.  The crowd may be a college professor ridiculing a student who is Christian for his or her belief in God.  The crowd could even be a parent discouraging a child to pursue a call to ministry or a less lucrative career in the service to others.

Sometimes the crowd is us, in our own inclination to sinful conduct that becomes an obstacle to our pursuit of God and fulfilling his will in our lives.  Having a tendency to always want to be in control of my schedule, I sometimes let my list of things to do to get in the way of dealing with the unexpected or what God would like me to do.

A number of years ago, I had a friend who had terminal cancer.  I had visited him both in his home and at the hospital.  One afternoon I received a call at my office that his situation had worsened.  I delayed going to see him in order to finish an item on my list for that day. I thought just a couple of hours wouldn’t matter.  He died before I got to see him one last time.  The crowd in this case was my will taking precedence over God’s will for me that afternoon. 

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  (1 Co. 13:7)

What Is It About Truth?

“When Herod heard John he was greatly puzzled, yet he liked to listen to him.” (Mark 6:20)

After Herod had John the Baptist imprisoned, he would visit him, apparently fascinated by the things that John had to say.

Why did Herod like to listen to John?  Because John spoke the truth, and truth is attractive. 

Jesus told Pilate that the reason he came into the world was to testify to the truth.  Pilate, though the embodiment of all truth was standing right in front of him, asked, “What is truth? (John 18:37-38)

There is a purity in the truth that makes it attractive.  We have several common expressions about truth:

  • “Honesty is the best policy”
  • “As God is my witness”
  • “As a matter of fact”
  • “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:32) There is freedom that comes with the truth – freedom from guilt, fear and sin.  All four gospels report how people were amazed at the wisdom of Jesus’ teachings and how he taught with authority.  Truth carries a certain authority with it.

From earliest childhood, our sinful human nature tends to obscure the truth to protect our selfish instincts.  One sibling blames another for starting a fight.  We begin to lie to cover up misbehavior and sinful conduct.  Without strong parental guidance and moral teaching, truth is increasingly pushed aside.

We deal with issues of truth in the practical aspects of daily life, and in the context of the larger questions of life itself.

On the practical level, as a former lawyer for a corporation, I was regularly called on to interpret whether certain proposed actions of the company were consistent with applicable law.  From time to time, the proposed action was in direct conflict with what a particular law or regulation required.  I would have to overcome the tendency to tell the affected manager what he wanted to hear, and instead hold to the truth that his proposed action would run afoul of the law.  In those cases, I would always try to suggest alternative actions that would satisfy both the company objective and the law.

On the philosophical level, from the very beginning of human history and to this very day, the human race has been searching for truth in terms of who we are, what our purpose is and how we and all that exists came to be.  The secular world looks to philosophy and reason to grapple with these questions.  The Judeo Christian world looks to God’s revelation in the writings of the prophets, scripture and the words of Jesus.

Truth is attractive; sets us free and lets us live out our lives with confidence.

St. Paul said, “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” (1Co. 13:6)  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  (John 14:6)