Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

Treating Our Fellow Humans Well

February 29, 2016

I have many friends and acquaintances who are followers of Islam. Not one is even remotely a terrorist. Or even a bad person.

One thing I have noticed while reading about how Jesus and Paul treated people–they treated people of all cultures with respect.

Jesus was watched very carefully by the ultra-religious among the Pharisees. Every little thing was commented on. Yet, even in the Jewish  areas where he mainly served, he treated “outsiders” with respect. Think of his healings of Romans. Or the Samaritan woman.

Paul’s ministry was explicitly to people outside the Jewish faith and culture. Yet, he too treated people of other cultures well. Think of his “debate” in Athens pointing out the statue to the unknown god. “I’m here to tell you about that unknown God you’re worshiping. He is real.”

Last week I wrote a plea for more mature relationships among men and women. This week, I’m going even more off the deep end (at least as far as Americans are concerned) by commenting on relations with Muslims.

Someone asked me once about Muslims and Christians worshiping the same God. Certainly Muslims trace their lineage back to Abraham, just as we do. John Fischer on The Catch has been discussing this issue with great sensitivity and understanding.

I’m not going to give an answer to the question. But I know that most of the readers of this blog would be amazed to know just what is in the Quran. And that many Muslims are taught much more about Jesus than many who call themselves Christian.

I don’t believe that Muslims must suddenly become Baptist or Methodist. But I think that it is only a short step to go from their understanding of Jesus to the faith in the resurrection. We only need to present clearly the evidence that Jesus is even greater than they are taught.

My concern for people is not what “church” they call home–if indeed they even have one. My concern is to make disciples of Jesus. Maybe they are Samaritan. Maybe Greek. Maybe Muslim. Maybe Buddhist. Jesus is what is important. And sometimes we lose sight of the basics of the faith.

Humans are born with a longing. Jesus fulfills it. Those of us who are truly disciples try to tell others about that in such a way not to turn them off but to engage and encourage.

Leadership Through Mentoring

January 22, 2016

We think of a leader as someone who has many people reporting to them. Maybe 10 or maybe hundreds. We picture them out front of the infantry leading the charge.

Surprisingly, often a leader is someone without an official position, yet they exert influence and direction through their ideas, conversations, persistence, relationships, and character.

But we are still thinking about influencing many.

Great leaders often are also great mentors. They find someone coming along with potential and begin to nurture them. Think perhaps of Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid.”

Think back in your life. People came into my life, often briefly, who guided me often without my even knowing it at the time. There was my first supervisor at Airstream, John, who put me in positions to learn. Then Jack came along. He did things for me to get me promoted into increasingly important roles, but I never realized it at the time. Awakening came later, but not too late.

Lately there has been someone where we share from our varied experiences.

When you mentor someone, it should be intentional on your part. But with full knowledge that you are not a teacher just taking knowledge from your brain and trying to enlighten the mentee. Rather, mentorship grows with a relationship. As you work together or have conversations, often it’s just a question you ask or a point you think that they should think about that works. You have to let them grow at their pace. Force does not work.

The quality of character counts for much. Paul, the apostle, described both in 1 Timothy and in Titus a good leader.

  • Not violent
  • Blameless
  • Not accused of debauchery
  • Not rebellious
  • Not arrogant
  • Not quick-tempered
  • Not greedy for gain
  • A firm grasp on the Word
  • Trustworthy

I get a picture of a strong, yet gentle, person. Quiet in demeanor. Observant of others. Passionate with being overly emotional. Intelligent and wise. Concerned for the welfare of the other before even his own.

Gosh, I’m describing myself—-I wish. Perhaps I’m describing you. If so and you do not have a younger person you’re mentoring, find one. Pray intentionally. God will provide someone.

 

Fear, Anger, Lives Matter

January 21, 2016

My friend called this evening. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s not very social, but deep down he really wants to connect. On the other hand, connections with people are stressful. 

He asked what I was doing. Reading the news, I replied. He said, “I never read the news. Too depressing.” 

I agreed. Said I mostly read tech news.

He’s right about the news. We learn about almost every murder in the world. In fact, it’s always about murder, shootings, rapes, confrontations, hostility, war. “If it bleeds, it leads” was the old newspaper mantra. That’s even more important in this 24-hour constant news cycle where eyeballs on the screen are crucial to financial success. (I was in the business.)

Inundation of stories of killing raises fear in the hearts of many. Fear often plays out in anger. We have lots of anger in the world. Even in America where things are really pretty good (don’t tell my Facebook “friends” that, they glory in bad news).

It seems everything gets politicized. Every life matters to God. But some people think that Black lives don’t matter to the white majority in this country. So, we get another bumper sticker slogan. Which leads good Christian conservative people to counter with “Blue Lives Matter” (policemen).

I’m not following all the election stuff very closely, but I will admit to having occasional nightmares about a Trump/Sanders election. Where would the other 75% of the voters go?

None of this helps the discussion. Where is the peacemaker when we need her? 

John Fischer wrote on The Catch “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” He pondered the thought about what would have happened in the 60s with the pent up anger and frustration of black people without the non-violent leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. Think of the riots after he was killed.

I read my Facebook news feed (more infrequently now) and see anger, fear, racism. I know most of these people. If asked, most would deny being angry, fearful, cynical, racist. But their words belie them.

Bill Hybels expressed his wish of the same thing last Sunday following a talk on race relations at Willow Creek. Our church stands firmly for good relations among those of various races, he said. “If you don’t agree, don’t let the door hit you in the back on your way out.” He’s just that strong–and concerned.

It’s not one of Richard J. Foster’s 12 Spiritual Disciplines, but I view peacemaking as a Spiritual Discipline–or Practice, if you wish. 

I’m way too low key. Most of my “talking” is with my fingers on a keyboard. Those of us who have perspective and take Jesus seriously for what he told us, need to step up the game.

From Theology to Practice

January 19, 2016

Andy Stanley last weekend talked about putting some motion in your devotion.

He captured it well.

Every time I dig deeply into either the Gospels to see what Jesus really teaches, or into the letters which were advice to the new disciples, I come to the same conclusion–the preponderance of the teaching focuses on how we live day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

I’ve been reading, studying, and contemplating on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Some scholars think Paul didn’t write it because the tone is a little different from the rest of his letters. It sure sounds like Paul to me. I go with some scholars who say it was probably more of a sermon than a letter. After all, Paul was firmly in the rabbinic tradition.

Some scholars dissed the letter because they thought it was used to justify the power of priests 1,700 years ago. Maybe so, but I don’t see that today.

Paul begins where he always begins, with the history of God’s relationship with the Jewish people, the breaking of the relationship, and then, most importantly, Jesus coming to teach, die, and be resurrected. Paul’s theology begins and ends with the resurrection. That changed everything for him.

Just as in Romans, though, Ephesians teaches that once we settle on God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus and our acceptance through faith, then the most important thing is how we live. Romans ends with practical advice; Ephesians ends with practical advice.

Part of our spiritual discipline, or spiritual practices, involves how we act. By the way, James who writes from a different tradition supports this thought. Be ye doers, he said (in 16th Century English).

But I digress. Today when you get dressed and head out to work or wherever you go, how are you going to act? What will you do? Will people see what you do and say, “There goes a disciple of Jesus”? Or, will they say, “There goes another one of those Christians who can preach belief but acts as if they’re the only people on Earth.”

I wrote yesterday about how I was once (?) book smart and common sense stupid. How hard it is for us to translate what we know into what we naturally do! But that is our task as set out by God. We may know. We may believe. But could anyone tell by watching?

Shed a Little Light

January 18, 2016

I wrote today’s post over the weekend. I’m having trouble remembering what day it is anymore. Too many things on my mind, I guess.

This morning, reminded it was Martin Luther King Day, I was reminiscing about my youthful college days as a civil rights advocate in an all-white community (of 1,000 people) and the grief I took. Or driving through Mississippi on my way to LSU for grad school in 1970 with an equal rights decal on my car. Book smart, common sense stupid. That was me.

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at my little liberal arts university not long before he was murdered. Guys told me that the farmers from around Ada, Ohio joked about how they should have run his car off the road on the trip from Lima to Ada.

Thanks to John Fischer and his email newsletter The Catch for pointing out this great song on YouTube to remind us of having a dream. Do we still have the dream? Listen and enjoy.

How We See Others

January 15, 2016

As a leader, how do you see your group? Not as a group, but as individuals.

Do you see them as hard working, dedicated, intelligent people? Or as lazy, slothful, needing constant supervision people?

I had a job once where I could get more done working from home than coming to the office. My boss said, “Well, as long as you’re working.” I thought, “Sheesh, no one puts out more work than I do, and he makes that comment.”

This phrase just popped up in my reading, “Your perception of me is a reflection of you.”

If you are looking at the team you are leading as a bunch of people you can’t trust to do their work. Maybe the problem really is you. Maybe you know that you’d like to slack off and are suspicious of others who might.

There was a story about a man traveling the back roads of the Midwest in the early 20th Century. He came across a farmer. He stopped and asked, “What sort of people live around here?”

“Well, what sort of people lived where you are from?”

“They were a lying, thieving bunch of people.”

“Well, I guess you’ll find people here about the same.”

A second traveler came by later and stopped. Asked the same question. The farmer asked what sort of people there were where he was from. “Honest, hardworking, trustworthy people,” came the response.

“Well, I guess you’ll find the people around here to be about the same.”

It is a great story pointing out that our perceptions are often colored by our emotions, thoughts, and opinions. We see what we want to see.

When I’ve dealt with people as a leader, whether as a parent or manager, I always just have this expectation, usually unstated but clear by insinuation, that people will live up to being what they were meant to be. I expect the best for other people.

When you deal with others, how do you view them? If the results are not forthcoming, perhaps a good look in a mirror is in order. Change your attitude toward others and watch how their attitude changes.

Let’s Just Hate Them All (Not)

December 8, 2015

I am so saddened. A news alert just came across my iPhone. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for barring all Muslim people (I doubt that he calls them people) from entering the country.

OK. OK. I know that he is running for office and is on one of those populist platforms that plays to a segment of the American population. William Jennings Bryan (yes the guy who defended the creation-in-seven-24-hour-days lawsuit) ran for president four times as a Democrat on a free silver platform appealing to the lower middle classes of his day. He lost all by huge margins. We have a history of populist candidates.

I know better. I shut out most of that sort of news. Most politics are just not interesting to me anymore. I did spend a year in a Master’s level political science program back when it was hard to get into grad school. I got something like a 99-percentile on the Graduate Record Exam in Politics. I’m not ignorant–just not engaged.

From a spiritual discipline point of view, however, I am so sad that someone feels he can appeal to a large segment of a “Christian” nation by pandering to the lowest of fears and emotions. Judging by my Facebook news thread, many people who call themselves Christian are eating this up.

I have many friends who follow Islam. Also Buddhists and Hindus. Just as my Christian and sort-of-Christian friends, they are all good people. They were created in God’s image. God loves them. I am commanded by my master to love them. I need to show them as a Jesus-follower that we are not all Crusaders bent on wiping out all “non-Christian” peoples.

Yes, we need to deal with evil people. But to paint everyone as evil because of a few is a travesty.

Lord, guide me to following the spiritual disciplines of prayer and seeking wisdom. And so for my fellow citizens of my country. And every country.

What If We Had a Ceasefire?

December 1, 2015

CEASEFIRE!

I’m sure it was “bumper sticker philosophy.” I have no clue what the rest of the words were on it. But the one word blared out distinctly.

Then a line of thinking began. What is it about that word?

Ceasefire describes a momentary (or hopefully longer) cessation of hostilities between the combatants. Rifles and artillery fall silent. People can breathe. A certain amount of relaxation seeps into the body and the group.

What if we invoked that word a little more often? And in other contexts?

Here’s a thought that I believe a large majority of Americans would go with–what if we took Nancy Pelosi (leader of the “liberal” wing of the Democrats in the US House) and Jim Jordan (leader of the “conservative” wing of the Republicans). What if we forced them into a room together and wouldn’t let them out until they forged a ceasefire?

Maybe we could get them to work within their differences (which are OK in themselves) with the purpose of an effective government? Let’s stop shooting at each other and see how we can work toward some common objectives–say the overall welfare of the people of the US?

Then I heard about white, male, Christian who took his firearms to a crowded shopping area that contained a Planned Parenthood clinic and started shooting.

What if we had a ceasefire among all the competing brands of Christianity? What if we learned to live with the variety of opinions and then focused on living out the commands of Jesus? Very simple–love God, love your neighbor.

Yes. A ceasefire. We need one of those. Maybe we could begin with the Christmas season and then extend it.

Bringing Down The Walls That Separate

November 23, 2015

Business writers (like me) often write about new technologies that promise to “break down the silos” of the various departments within an organization–for example, manufacturing, finance, engineering, maintenance.

The same can be true in other organizations. A church may have organizations (committees) around finance, buildings, worship, children ministry, youth ministry, missions. A church without a strong leadership team will discover that each of these have become a silo working independently often at cross purposes wasting resources.

Herod’s Temple in Jesus’ time had a wall beyond which non-Jewish people could not traverse. They were not allowed into the holiest of the areas. Paul the apostle had a problem when he was accused of bringing a “Greek” into the “Jewish” area.

Today we are still busy building walls. I read something about a bunch of governors wishing to erect a wall to keep refugees from the war in Syria out. Others desire a physical wall to keep Mexican people out.

We have church walls–even among varying persuasions of Christians. I remember playing guitar for a Mass in 1970. Father Ottenweller looked at me and said, “Someday, you will be able to take communion with us.” Well, 45 years later, still not true.

Several of my sources suddenly are all teaching on Ephesians. There is a chain of scholarly thought that this letter was not written by Paul. I guess these are the anti-Catholics (against priesthood that can be found implied in the letter). I’m not a scholar. This pretty much looks like a letter of Paul. And the second chapter has some interesting imagery. It talks of tearing down the walls that separate us. As Paul said elsewhere, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; male nor female; slave nor free; for we are all one in Jesus.”

Somewhere along the line, we as a people keep forgetting the simple facts of Christian life. We are meant to be wall removers, not wall erectors. Go find a wall to knock down today. And tomorrow.

Curiosity Is The Foundation of Learning

November 9, 2015

How could you draw that smile (on the Mona Lisa)? How do you draw? What do you know how to draw? How do they paint the Eiffel Tower? Do they tie ropes to the guys? Why can’t they make a light bulb that lasts longer? Why can’t they make a better battery? How did they know about waves in the air when they invented them to make a radio?

That wasn’t even the entire conversation with my 8-yr-old grandson. I just asked him about his trip to Paris.

I told him that the world is filled with problems to solve. That’s why we need engineers and scientists.

I’m worried that school will kill some of that curiosity, but that’s another story.

The thing is–he’s always been curious. At 18 months taking a walk down the street could take a long time as we stopped explore all manner of things.

The conference I attended a few weeks ago featured a keynote speaker called Michael Gelb. He wrote a book, “How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci.” It is a fascinating book about a fascinating guy.

The first of seven characteristics–Curiosity.

What is that doing in a spiritual discipline blog?

Think of all the curiosity in the New Testament.

All of the original 12 close disciples were curious about Jesus. Who is that guy? Paul at first was opposed, then he too wondered, “Who is that guy?”

Paul also had to answer the question, Now what do we do after we believe? (Hint: Love the Lord and love your neighbor.)

I’m incessantly curious–what is God trying to say to me? What does the Bible say? What should I be doing? Why do people act that way? How can I help? What can I do to serve?

Curiosity can be a powerful spiritual discipline. It keeps us from becoming complacent.