Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meekness in the Real World

How To Sell Yourself
A couple of hundred secretaries attended a seminar in Syracuse a few months ago. Because I happened to be in the hotel that day, I did a little eavesdropping.

The speaker was a snappily dressed, fast-talking Yuppie who dished out a lot of expensive advice about how to sell yourself in the business world. By the way you dress, she explained, you can put across a message of power (suits, ladies, not soft sweaters; skirts, not slacks; pumps, not sandals).

The way you wear your hair tells the boss more than your resume did. Hair over the forehead tells him (yes, the lecturer did actually refer to the boss as "him" most of the time) you're shy, coy, or afraid of something; long, loose stuff says you haven't grown up. And you know what fluffed-out hair proclaims the minute you walk into the office: fluffbrain!

What you eat for lunch and how you arrange your desk lets people know who's in charge. No creamed dishes, no desserts; no teddy bears or cutesy mottoes on the desk. Feel good about yourself--slim, trim, lots of vim. Be assertive. Be confident. Walk into the head office in your elegant Joseph A. Bank suit--dark (of course) impeccably (of course) tailored (of course). Stand tall. Head up. Smile. Give him the kind of handshake that lets him know it could have been a knuckle-cruncher--he'll get the message: power. You're in charge.

Beneath the Surface

In Tree of Life magazine Peter Reinhart writes:
The spirit of this age is one of personal power; the spirit of Christ is one of humility. The spirit of this age is one of ambitious accomplishment; the spirit of Christ is one of poverty. The spirit of this age is one of self-determination; the spirit of Christ is one of abandonment to Divine Providence.

He goes on to suggest a new kind of seminar: training in the assertion of virtues--humility, for example, spiritual poverty, purity of heart, chastity of mind. Instead of self-reliance he sees reliance on Christ as the source of empowerment and liberation.

So do I. To be Christ's slave is perfect freedom.

Will this idea sell? Will it work? Can we really get what we want this way? The third question is the crucial one for Christians. Answer it, and you already have the answer to the first two.
If what you want is what the world wants, nobody will be able to sell Reinhart's seminar to you. It isn't going to work.

But if you've made up your mind to have what the world despises--the things that last forever--and if Jesus Christ is Lord of your life, the whole picture, even in the dog-eat-dog world of competition and big money and big success, will be different.

What distinguishes the Christian from others in that world? I admit the validity of some of the Yuppie's advice, silly as it sounds. The medium, alas, is to a certain extent the message. A Christian must he at least as careful, sensible, and serious about doing the job properly as anybody else. He must also dress and act carefully, sensibly, seriously. Man looks on the outward appearance because it's the only thing man can look on. God alone can look on the heart.

What's in the heart reveals itself sooner or later. You may get the job on the basis of first appearance.
You'll keep it on the basis of how you perform day by day. Many perform well because they're after money and power--but there's nearly always room for a little fudging here and there, a lot of elbowing and shoving and downright trampling of whoever's in your way, not to mention high-level crimes that people get away with.

The Christian in the office or factory or construction job operates from a wholly different motive: "service rendered to Christ himself, not with the idea of currying favor with men, but as the servants of Christ conscientiously doing what you believe to be the will of God for you" (Ephesians 6:5, 6 PHILLIPS).

How High, How Mighty?

I would hope that the Christian businessman or woman, whether lowest on the corporate totem pole or the chief executive officer, would be distinguished from the rest not only by conscientious work but also by graciousness, by simple kindness, by an unassuming manliness or a modest womanliness, and above all by a readiness to serve. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with ambition--Jesus often appealed to it--but the nature of those ambitions makes a huge difference: "He that would be chief among you must be servant of all,'' even if that means serving coffee instead of serving on the committee you were itching to join.

A Christian is the sort of person who can be asked to do whatever needs to be done without retorting, "That's not my job." Somebody is bound to remind me that you can get in trouble with the unions this way. Well, you know what I mean. Christians are available. Christians aren't too high and mighty to do the nasty little task nobody else will do. Christians can be counted on, imposed on, sometimes walked all over. Why not? Their Master was.

I think of my friend Betty Greene, a pilot (called an aviator in her early days) who ferried bombers during World War II and helped found Mission Aviation Fellowship. "I made up my mind," she told me, "that if I was to make it in a man's world, I would have to be a lady." A more ladylike lady I have never known. She knows when to keep her mouth shut. She's modest. She's the very soul of graciousness. She isn't trying to prove anything. Nate Saint, an early colleague of hers, once told me he had had no use for women pilots until he met Betty. She shook up his categories.

Christians ought to be always shaking up people's categories. I guess one of the things the world finds most infuriating about much-maligned Jerry Falwell is his unflappable graciousness, his refusal to retreat behind spurious logic. They'd like to call him a rechecked bigot, but he doesn't fit the category. His worst offense is that he's so often right. He speaks the truth--that's bad enough--and he speaks it in love. That's unforgivable.

"The very spring of our actions," said the apostle Paul, "is the love of Christ.'' That goes for all of us who claim the name Christian. It is the energizing principle of whatever we do--from praying and serving the church to laundry and lawn mowing and the jobs we get paid for. Charity is the word.
Charity? In the late twentieth century? Yes. If in home, school, and workplace the rule of each Christian's life were MY LIFE FOR YOURS ("in honor preferring one another") it would make a very great difference.

The Christian's distinctive mark is love. It was what set the Lord Jesus apart from all others. It was, in the end, what got him crucified. If we follow him in the marketplace, many of the self-promotion methods others use will be out of the question to us.

Won't we run the risks of being ignored, stepped on at times, passed over for a promotion? Yes, those and a good many others. But what price are we willing to pay for obedience? The faithful, unconcerned about self-actualization, will find along the pathway of self-denial the blossoms of fulfillment. We have our Lord's paradoxical promise in Luke 17:33: "Whoever tries to preserve his life will lose it, and the man who is prepared to lose his life will preserve it.

Copyright 1989, by Elisabeth Elliot
all rights reserved. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness

Let us put ourselves upon a trial whether we hunger and thirst after righteousness. I shall give you five signs by which you may judge of this hunger.
1 Hunger is a painful thing. …a man that hungers after righteousness is in anguish of soul and ready to faint away for it. He finds a want of Christ and grace. He is distressed and in pain till he has his spiritual hunger stilled and allayed.
2 Hunger is satisfied with nothing but food. Bring an hungry man flowers, music; tell him pleasant stories; nothing will content him but food. ‘Shall I die for thirst?’ says Samson (Judges 15: 18). So a man that hungers and thirsts after righteousness says, Give me Christ or I die. Lord, what wilt thou give me seeing I go Christless? …While the soul is Christless, it is restless. Nothing but the water-springs of Christ’s blood can quench its thirst.
3 Hunger wrestles with difficulties and makes an adventure for food. We say hunger breaks through stone walls (cf. Genesis 42: 1, 2). The soul that spiritually hungers is resolved; Christ it must have; grace it must have.
4 An hungry man falls to his meat with an appetite. You need not make an oration to an hungry man and persuade him to eat. So he who hungers after righteousness feeds eagerly on an ordinance. ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them’ (Jeremiah 15: 16). In the sacrament he feeds with appetite upon the body and blood of the Lord. God loves to see us feed hungrily on the bread of life. 
5 An hungry man tastes sweetness in his meat. So he that hungers after righteousness relishes a sweetness in heavenly things. Christ is to him all marrow, yea the quintessence of delights.
By these notes of trial we may judge of ourselves whether we hunger and thirst after righteousness.
‘Blessed are they that hunger’. Though you do not have so much righteousness as you would, yet you are blessed because you hunger after it.

Thomas Watson (c. 1620—1686) 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Faithful in the Little & Tiresome Things

It is wholly impossible to live according to Divine order, and to make a proper application of heavenly principles, as long as the necessary duties which each day brings seem only like a burden grievous to be borne. Not till we are ready to throw our very life's love into the troublesome little things can we be really faithful in that which is least and faithful also in much. Every day that dawns brings something to do, which can never be done as well again. We should, therefore, try to do it ungrudgingly and cheerfully. It is the Lord's own work, which He has given us as surely as He gives us daily bread. We should thank Him for it with all our hearts, as much as for any other gift. It was designed to be our life, our happiness. Instead of shirking it or hurrying over it, we should put our whole heart and soul into it.

~ James Reed