Thursday, July 14, 2011
Faith from the Outside
Way back in the Dark Ages, like 1995, I got this idea that my company should do a web site. A few companies were starting to look into this thing called the worldwide web. I was in the communications department, and had started up an email newsletter for employees (how quaint that sounds today). So I thought the web might be the next logical step.
I went to the IT department for help. They didn’t exactly laugh: they were polite. But they said (and this was a literal quote), “The web is a flash in the pan, like eight-track tapes. The future is Lotus Notes.” I was told to go to the outside to get help; internal resources were not available. So I did. I found the one firm in our town who had experience doing web sites. They had done exactly one, but that was light years ahead of what anyone else had done.
We did the project, launched the site, and – success. A new CIO arrived at the company and asked who was in charge of web development. He was told (another direct quote), “Well, there is this guy in PR.”
I don’t want to pick on IT. (Now if it were lawyers, that would be a different story.) But the situation illustrates something I’ve learned, including within my own function. Significant change tends to come from outside, not inside, the function. When you’re on the inside, you have your own culture, your own ways of doing things, your own knowledge of “we tried that before.” So change tends to come from the outside.
This reminds me of the story in the Gospel of St. Matthew about the Roman centurion. Jesus is in Galilee, teaching, preaching and healing. He and the disciples enter Capernaum, and the first thing that happens is a Roman centurion asks him for help in healing his paralyzed servant. Jesus says “I will go and heal him,” to which the centurion responds with a short treatise on authority:
“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Matthew 8: 8-9, New International Version).
There are a number of wildly interesting things going on here. The centurion felt comfortable enough or felt the situation urgent enough that he approached Jesus. The centurion was making a plea for healing on behalf of his servant – which tells you a lot about the centurion right there. Not a family member, not a soldier, but a servant. He recognizes that his home is not worthy enough for Jesus to visit it. And he understands Jesus’ power and authority. He knows his Lord.
A Roman centurion! The mind boggles.
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matthew 8:10, NIV).
The outstanding example of faith came from outside of the people of Israel. Jesus didn’t single out a disciple, or a Pharisee, or any of the people following him, or any of the people he had already healed. Instead, he singled out the faith of the outsider.
The pre-eminent example of faith came from the outside. And we still tell the story of the Roman centurion 2,000 years later.
Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is hosting a blog carnival on faith. To see other posts based on a verse in the Bible about faith, please visit Faith Barista.
Photograph: Roman soldier by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.