It’s a familiar scene. You’re sitting in a strategy meeting at work, thrashing through the best approach to a problem or issue. The issue is difficult and not clear-cut. All of the needed people are sitting around the table, representing Law, Human Resources, Public Relations, the business group, the research group. An outside consultant or two is on the phone.
Everyone’s expertise is brought to bear. As the discussion goes on, it’s clear that the Law perspective is likely to prevail, even though it’s likely to generate damage for the organization’s reputation. Finally, you speak out, representing a perspective that is alien in these halls of secular business culture.
You see the reactions. People don’t like what you have just said, what in effect you are predicting if the consensus perspective is implemented. This has happened before; sometimes you’re ignored, and sometimes what you say is acknowledged with some small change.
This time you’re ignored. Two people are clearly angry with you. You know exactly what they are thinking: Not a team player. Your speaking out is going to cost you in organizational terms, regardless of whether you’re listened to or not. But you know you have argued for doing the right thing, even at the cost of short-term pain.
Organizations don’t like short-term pain.
The decision is implemented, and what you predicted fully comes to pass, causing more problems and rippling back on the business.
The team’s response: even more anger directed at you. Because you were right.
You don’t feel smug. You feel sorrow. And you know it will be worse the next time, assuming you’re even invited to participate the next time.
Your question to yourself, and to God, why does this happen?
For a Christian, it’s easy, perhaps too easy, to attribute everything to sin and mankind’s fallen condition. Organizational politics. Embracing the wrong thing. Crime. The Islamic State butchering Christians, women, children, the defenseless. A culture growing increasingly coarse and turning its back on decent behavior. Children suffering debilitating diseases.
Sin is certainly a part of it. But there’s more, and the more is difficult to accept.
In Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism, John Lennox points to what the prophet Daniel recognized from the very beginning: “The first thing Daniel says about God in his book is that he is involved in human history: a statement of immense import, if it is true.”
This is what Daniel says: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god” (Daniel 1:1-2, New International Version).
Think about that.
The Lord God delivered the king of Judah into the hands of a pagan ruler.
The Lord God allowed his own temple to be plundered.
The Lord God allowed valuables from his own temple to be placed in the temple of Nebuchadnezzar’s god.
Daniel doesn’t ask why. Daniel knows why.
With all of the evil swirling around our world, our society, our culture, and our communities, we have to remember that God is involved in human history.
God is involved suffering and genocide? The murder of innocents? Disease and physical infirmities? The Islamic State? People at work getting angry with you because you were right in what you told them?
The Lord God is involved in human history. We may not understand it. We may never understand it, at least in this lifetime.
But the Lord God is involved.
I’ve been discussing Against the Flow by John Lennox and will continue to do so for the next several weeks on Mondays. It’s a deeply insightful, highly readable book. Lennox is a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford and a speaker on the interface of science, philosophy and religion.
Painting: The Siege of Jerusalem by James Tissot (1902); Jewish Museum, New York.