An entertaining story in the Old Testament of the Bible focuses on the life and times of Gideon.
(For the whole story, read chapters 5 through 8 of the book of Judges)
Because of Israel’s disobedience, God had lifted His protection. For seven years, the Midianites had been oppressing Israel. The Midianite tactic of destroying the land and absconding with any harvest and livestock had impoverished Gideon and his kin. In the narrative, we are introduced to Gideon, the son of Joash the Abiezrite, hiding in a winepress threshing wheat. This ploy was Gideon’s attempt to prevent the Midianites from discovering and stealing the harvested grain. The Angel of the Lord appears and addresses the young man in his hideout as a “mighty man of valor” and assures him that the Lord is with him. Gideon responds with what must have been the national lament of his day, “O my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13)
Long story shortened: Initially, 32,000 men joined Gideon’s army. The Angel of the Lord told Gideon that this army was too large and schooled him how to winnow this number down to an appropriate size. The final winnowing process was the “lapping-water-test.”
“And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water.” (Judges 7:6)
I first heard this story in Sunday School during my elementary school days. A flannelgraph display often enhanced the lessons of that day. The moral of the story was that the 300 men who lapped appropriately remained servant-focused and vigilant. The men who dropped to their knees were self-absorbed and distracted. The defeat of the Midianites would be of miraculous proportions. The Angel of the Lord still desired to co-labor with those who lived from core values of service above self and vigilance. The men who passed the test became the army with which the Angel of the Lord would advance.
This passing season of the pandemic has been akin to a “lapping-water-test” for the Church. Tests reveal core values and willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to live out core values. I must say I was disappointed by how some in the Church responded to the test. For me, this trial highlighted the kind of army with which I wish to advance.
Some in the Church decided to fight the wrong battle. In a pandemic, the enemy is the disease. Some thought the enemy was the government and scientists. Their struggle was against the restrictions recommended by immunologists and imposed by the government. They presumed this was a targeted attack on Church rights. It was not. For them, it was about not being told what to do and protecting their perceived rights. These folks fell on their knees, stuck their head in the water, and ignored the facts. By doing so, they put lives at risk by their behaviors. That is not an army with which I want to be associated.
Moving forward, the nature of the army in which I choose to enlist shares some of my essential core values. First, it is an army that honors spiritual and intellectual integrity.
Honoring Spiritual Integrity requires:
- Maintaining the Kingdom Priority
Jesus established the Kingdom priority with these words, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . .”
(Matthew 6:33, NKJV)
Another core value promoted by Jesus aligns with this priority.
“And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”
(Matthew 5:41, NKJV)
The pandemic was a golden opportunity for the Church to gain favor in their communities and create a more receptive atmosphere for the gospel. The Church’s behavior should communicate to their community, “We are going to go the extra mile to protect you from the coronavirus threat. To this end, we will make necessary sacrifices and suspend our normal mode of operating!” Instead, many communities witnessed just another declaration of narcissism’s core values from the Church. “No one is going to tell us what to do. We are about us. Protecting our perceived rights is our priority!”
Maintaining Kingdom priority also means protecting the Church from the leaven of Herod. Unfortunately, too many local churches are becoming PACs (Political Action Committees). A political soapbox that imparts the leaven of Herod replaces the pulpit. (I’ll address this leaven in more detail in another blog)
I have learned many insightful lessons by visiting and reading about churches in other nations. In many parts of the world, the Church faces real persecution and more restrictive government practices. Yet, churches around the globe maintain Kingdom priority. In the face of persecution and restrictive government policies, these churches remain servant-hearted, flexible, adaptable, and creative.
During this pandemic, I’ve been watching how business leaders are responding to this new reality. Leaders in the Church would benefit from studying these leaders. Flexibility, adaptability, and creativity were vital. For example,
“For many organizations, COVID was the great accelerator—forcing them to transform their operations and better prepare for a digital future. Countless CEOs have told me their companies are better off today because of the experience during the pandemic. And numerous industries, like health care, jumped years ahead in their digitalization plans.
But what about education? Sad to say, the picture is much less clear. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that the great accelerator left the education sector in the dust.”
CEO Daily, edited by David Meyer.
I wonder if the great accelerator left much of the Church in the dust. Happily, I know of churches and ministries which sacrificed, flexed, adapted and responded creatively. These churches and ministries positioned themselves to be even more fruitful as we advance.
Honoring Spiritual Integrity also requires:
- Submission to legitimate government authority
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”
(Romans 13:1–2, NKJV)
I don’t know how the Apostle Paul could state this more clearly. Foresighted legislators here in the USA included laws on the books related to governing during emergencies. In emergencies, the CEO of any organization must exercise greater oversight and authority. I’ve written on this theme before. In a democracy, if you disagree with a law, work with your legislators to change the law. To disobey laws with which you disagree makes you an anarchist.
The apostle Peter encrypted his opinion of the Roman govenrment in this way,
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV)
To his contemporary church which was being persecuted by this “roaring lion” Peter wrote,
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—” (1 Peter 2:13–15, NKJV)
Honoring Intellectual Integrity requires:
- Passion for the Pursuit of Truth
I’ve written on this theme before. I prefer to live in the real world, not the world of supposed conspiracies and unverified facts.
Honoring Intellectual Integrity also requires:
- Respect for Science
I sometimes try to look at us from God’s perspective. First, the Supreme Intelligence created an intelligent universe. He then fashioned an intelligent being in His image. Finally, he instructed that intelligent creature to have dominion over His creation. To exercise authority this the created soul must parse the designed structures of the universe. For example, this intelligent being discovered RNA (ribonucleic acid). RNA is a nucleic acid present in all living cells. Its principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA to control protein synthesis. In the face of the coronavirus threat, intelligent researchers figured out a way to program RNA. Once programed, RNA can teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response to defeat coronavirus. This discovery also opens the door for fighting other diseases.
As one of these intelligent creatures wrote,
“It has huge potential because it (RNA) is the most ancient form of information technology.”
—Özlem Türeci, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer, BioNTech
God must be scratching His head watching the “anti-vaccers.” It’s a reminder that intelligence does not always equate with wisdom.