by Matthew Cramer
“…that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life…”
— 1Ti 2:2 RSV
A peaceable life can’t possibly mean complete withdrawal from the fray — forever resting quietly in hammocks under the shade trees, downing cool drinks. We need a break and some time off occasionally. Still, to serve Our Lord and be victorious, we must involve ourselves directly in the struggle. Clearly, “peaceable lives”means something other than boring, uneventful and listless existence.
This is the third part in our series about Power and Authority. The first, Overarching Care, identified a scriptural mandate that authorities in all areas of endeavor provide a peaceful culture for those entrusted to their care — a culture that will support efforts by Christians to advance The Kingdom.
“…I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Ti 2:1-4 RSV)
The injunction’s scope varies significantly; affecting the degree and type of action required. A parent’s responsibility for his child is quite different from an executive’s responsibilities for his mission and employees, or a bishop’s responsibility for his flock.
Nevertheless, authority’s overarching requirement to provide peaceable lives transcends all boundaries: religious, secular, governmental, parental, juridical, and so on. Christian or not, as “God’s servants”, authorities receive a share of His authority and power to execute their responsibilities, to “have dominion”.
The second part, In The Name Of Jesus, presented unique aspects of God’s authority and power that Jesus shares with His disciples as they advance the Kingdom of God — so that “all men [can] be saved and … come to the knowledge of the truth”. These Signs And Wonders complement and expand the authority and power God already shares with those in legitimate positions, secular or sacred.
Protection Is Key
We live our lives dunked in “the world, the flesh and the devil”. Day to day, we busily engage our call to: (1) Release the New Life within us (see Embracing Conflict With Hope); (2) Serve the Kingdom of God here in all its enterprises — family, church, government, work, etc.; and (3) Seek our destiny with God in Heaven.
Amidst a cacophony of pressures, temptations and responsibilities, we need peace so we might focus on The Lord and His calling in our lives. The source of peace is God Himself, Who resides in us following Baptism.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? …For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” (1Co 3:16,17 RSV)
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (1Php 4:6,7 RSV)
Authority does not provide peace. God Himself gives peace. Thus, if authority is to provide “peaceable lives”, it must deal with threats to that peace — protect us from dominance, ignorance, anarchy, threats, attacks, evil, confusion, disharmony, violence, and such like.
No one gets a free ride. Because of free will and the necessity to make choices, each of us must struggle with our Adamic nature, and difficulties connected with expanding the Kingdom in both the secular and sacred (see Embracing Conflict With Hope).
While no one gets a free ride, Our Lord wants interactions with life’s vicissitudes to be a fair fight. Consider these incredibly powerful gifts given by God to assist our quest to serve in The Kingdom, and achieve life with Him in Eternity:
- Jesus’ death and resurrection
- The arrival of the Holy Spirit and His gifts
- The Church
- Signs and wonders
- The Sacraments
- Holy Scripture
- The Magisterium
- Daily graces through prayer and bible study
- Delegations of His authority and power to legitimate authorities (see Overarching Care)
- Special delegations to Christians (see Signs And Wonders)
Despite our broken condition inherited from The Train Wreck Of Humanity, we remain tasked to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Ge 1:28).
Legitimate authority’s mission is to protect us from the myriad, disastrous dysfunctions fueled by evil; and our Adamic DNA — emotions, desires, appetites, and egos not yet fully tamed.
Justice Cannot Be Ignored
Recent scandals in both sacred and secular reveal significant sin. We’ve suffered a proliferation of sexual scandals in the Church, the housing market’s collapse, bank failures, bailouts to rescue our financial system, and a major recession with painfully high unemployment, just to name a few. All of those abuses, are rooted in crushing violations of justice, and committed by individuals in positions of responsibility and authority — the very ones responsible to prevent these disasters.
Justice, as defined in scripture and Church teaching is a virtue. Virtue is a habit that disposes us to do good, developed through our hard work, and imposed over the weaknesses of our Adamic DNA. Virtue is a characteristic of the New Life we receive in baptism that becomes fully released and operable in us. Much as a warrior, virtue includes a sense of personal courage, steadfast in the face of serious difficulty and opposition.
Justice is one of the cardinal virtues.
“Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance… Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. …the just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1805, 1807)
Justice is such a foundational, far-reaching concept, one might think it’s too comprehensive for treatment in a presentation about authority and power. But then there’s this:
“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. … for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Ro 13:3,4 RSV)
Justice is implied here. Authority’s role as “God’s servant” is to protect his charges with a system that defines unacceptable behavior, deals with evildoers, metes out punishment, and removes serious threats.
Our civil society has over two hundred years experience with a system that governs law making and dispensing justice. The American Experiment has achieved considerable success, although adjustments are regularly required. To quote Winston Churchill: “…democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”.
Since the 1950’s, our society has made significant progress in civil rights, and attempts to codify sensitivities to neighbor. At the same time, excessive emphasis has been placed on the pursuit of physical and emotional experiences for their own sake. Demands for individual rights, reputation, wealth, power, and sexual freedom now saturate our culture, pushing to become the lodestar of people’s lives.
Our priorities have shifted towards an exclusive focus on ourselves, thereby minimizing, or negating, God and neighbor. Our culture hasn’t completely succumbed, but we’ve drifted a long way from society’s value set before the 1950’s. The personal virtue of Justice, as an active, powerful influence in society has been slowly and steadily robbed of its power; squeezed into a sterile notion, a candidate for academe’s hall of fame that touts interesting, obsolete concepts.
Implementing justice in the lives of individuals and the many organizational entities that exist is no easy task. Yet, the scriptures reveal that a major part of Authority’s mission is to do just that.
Individuals — Through free will, we are each given authority over our own lives. It’s our responsibility to develop and nurture the virtue of Justice in ourselves, as we struggle to release all the New Life we’ve received (see Embracing Conflict With Hope). If Justice is not a virtue in us, we must keep trying so it becomes a major influence in our lives — so we are better prepared to execute our mission in The Kingdom, be it sacred or secular.
Family — Parents are the legitimate authorities in the family. Babies — should they survive the womb — are born into this world, absent of any knowledge, training or experience. Parents have the primary responsibility to prepare future members of our society so they’re able to engage the vicissitudes of life as responsible adults, accomplish their assignments in The Kingdom, and pursue their destiny to be with God in Heaven.
Parents execute their mission and nurture their children through example, education, and mentoring. We send our children to school so they can acquire knowledge that ranges from learning how to speak, read, and write — to advanced training in the arts, sciences, literature, philosophy, religion, and so on. But where is their training and mentoring in the virtue of Justice — their “habitual right thinking and uprightness of conduct toward their neighbor”?
To be sure, there is more to raising a child than a secular education and developing the virtue of Justice. Children need a relationship with Our Lord, familiarity with the gifts of the Spirit and teachings of the Church, full participation in the Sacraments, and more. Nevertheless, Justice and the other cardinal virtues are critical to the release of the New Life in every individual.
The negative effects of a growing breakdown in family life are plainly manifest in society. Parents must renew their dedication and efforts in authority’s critical mission to be the champion of Justice. Delegation of their assignment to others, in no way relieves parents of their responsibility.
Organizational Responsibilities — I like to say: “People in authority don’t get paid to do real work; they get paid to make good decisions.” There are myriad situations and complications that confront those in authority. Some significant areas where justice is a major factor are:
— Organizational policies; hiring, firing, discipline, promotion and pay
— Relationships with customers, suppliers and subcontractors
— Work assignments and performance evaluation
— Advertising and pricing
— Communications, both within and without
We are each in various positions on salvation’s playing field (see The Train Wreck Of Humanity). We must die to self, resist evil, and try to balance the teeter-totter between the sacred and the secular. When we join organizations in government, commerce, fellowships, churches, groups, and the like, we don’t check our weaknesses, agendas, paradigms, dreams and fears at the door each day as we arrive. Thus, the manager of any organization, large or small, in the sacred or the secular, must lead a wonderful, loveable, damaged, and redeemed collection of “odd ducks” to execute his mission. They are a major source of management issues.
It matters not if you’re a manager, pastor, executive, bishop or in another position of authority, your life is filled with the “usual suspects”: conflict, disagreement, performance issues, customer and personnel problems, ethics and policy situations, budget and schedule demands, and the like.
Justice is a beacon that lights the way to successful decisions. Without the virtue of Justice, life–giving execution of authority’s mission is in jeopardy (see Ethics In Business).
Promote Life Giving Accountability
It’s easy to have a spirited and constructive discussion with others about accountability — as long as it’s about the other guy. But when the conversation shifts to ourselves, things muddle. We’d like to escape personal accountability, or reserve it only for past successes. Our discomfort with personal accountability is rooted in dysfunctional discipline while growing up, fear of failure, our Adamic pride, and our sin-based condition (see The Train Wreck Of Humanity).
We just aren’t comfortable being wrong or making a mistake, so we avoid accountability wherever possible. Some say we shouldn’t grade schoolwork so the children won’t risk feeling bad. Others suggest we shouldn’t keep score in games so there will be no losers. These and many similar notions seem well intentioned. But they are actually based on a deception that “throws the baby out with the bathwater”.
Most of us can remember the thrill of success — having completed a difficult task with many obstacles to overcome. We are denied the joy, satisfaction and thrill of success: if the task’s completion was not defined well; not assigned responsiblity so we can take credit; if the task was not meaningful (a significant contribution to a larger goal or objective); and if its completion involved cheating or other immoral acts on our part.
We enjoy competition in sports, school activities, and even within ourselves — as in developing a music gift, advanced studies, doing repetitive work better or faster, and so on.
In the early 20th century, time and motion studies discovered that workers could accomplish more if their workload was stacked up high before them. The prevailing thought at the time was that new work should be introduced at a pace that matched the output, so as not to discourage the performer. But when the work was stacked up high before them, workers worked harder, exceeding and improving their previous output, just to see how much better they could be.
If there were no measurements in everyday life, if nobody was responsible for accomplishments, there would be no opportunities to experience the satisfaction and joy of achievement. Worse, we would lose the wisdom gained from analysis of failures. Most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs confirm they learned much more from their mistakes, than from their successes. Absent of counting and the assignment of responsibility, mistakes would be unknown and thus never analyzed by anyone. We would drift from unfulfillment to unfulfillment, never knowing why.
The top leaders of organizations in both the sacred and the secular typically establish metrics for the overall health of the organization. They include sales, profit, members or employees, product or ministries delivered, and so on. This is necessary because they are “single point” accountability for stockholders, higher management, lending institutions, and other stakeholders that require performance measurement.
But unless the practice of accountability is pushed down in the organization, to the lowest level, all of the other performers are denied the opportunity to experience the joy and thrill of measurable achievement, and to learn from their mistakes. When this level of accountability is used properly, the organization profits from increased effectiveness and capability.
Businesses have enjoyed these benefits since Peter Drucker introduced Management by Objectives (MBO) in 1954. There have been implementation problems with excesses and personal agendas. The sacred and small businesses seem to have decided to opt out of any comprehensive implementation. But the promise is still there waiting to be claimed.
Defining an MBO objective requires extra work by those in authority to produce a well-defined and agreed-to statement of results that can be measured clearly and credited cleanly to the assigned party. MBO objectives are not some offhand vision, guess or warm feeling about tasks at hand. They are:
- A written definition of:
— Scope (quantified, measurable results to be achieved)
— Time (span or point of completion)
— Resources (labor, materiel, facilities)
— Tolerance band (defines limits for acceptable variance)
- Supportive of broader or higher level goals and objectives
- Mutually agreed upon between the performer and his manager through dialogue
- Within the control of the performer
- Authorized along with the necessary resources and sufficient authority
In short, objectives are understood, measurable, accomplishable, claimed, authorized, funded, have a date and plan, and support broader objective(s) or goal(s). Performers are counseled never to accept an objective that is:
- Outside your control
- Beyond your capability
- Beyond a comfortable “stretch” from past experience
- Substantially less than past performance
- Undefined or incomplete
All of this can seem rather formal, involved and unnecessary in small or low priority situations. It takes time to learn how to think in these terms without getting trapped in rule-bound formality. There is a clear difference between tasking your teenager to take out the trash, requesting a choir to improve the music at liturgy, and directing a production line to reduce the unit cost of each product. Nevertheless, the principles are the same, even if the specifics are not. In each case, two questions are helpful to keep the focus where it belongs:
- How do I know I’m done?
- How do I know it’s done right?
Accountability is necessary to learn, solve problems, and affirm successful performance. As long the techniques are not burdened with defective use of authority and power, accountability will bring life and growth to any organization.
Spiritual Protection Is Vital
Least understood, and even less used in the Christian manager’s arsenal, is spiritual warfare. It matters not whether the assignment’s in the sacred or secular. Spiritual warfare is totally absent from popular leadership and management literature in both fields. There are no symposiums or conferences to explore management techniques in this arena. And yet, spiritual attack is a primary cause of organizational dysfunction, second only to our Adamic DNA.
Even though Jesus defeated Satan and death, we must still contend with evil spirits attacking our person, and evil spiritual rulers, powers, and authorities that are in opposition to advancing the Kingdom of God (see Satan And His Minions).
“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12 RSV)
Evil is by nature aggressive — shoving, accusing, and deceiving its way into God’s creation. On the other hand, the nature of good is more passive, content to praise God, respect others, and focus on Kingdom tasks assigned by God.
“When the righteous triumph, there is great glory; but when the wicked rise, men hide themselves. …but when they perish, the righteous increase. …When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Pr 28:12,28; 29:2 RSV)
The structural entities we create for a peaceful, life-giving and effective culture are all candidates for attack from evil. The old saying is true: “Satan doesn’t mind us doing the good thing, he just doesn’t want us doing the God thing”.
Thus, spiritual attack is to be expected — directed not only at individuals, but also at every legitimate element of organization, whether in sacred or secular pursuits. Whatever we have built up to provide life-giving, peaceable support for our endeavors, and to express talents, gifts and truth — is a target to be torn down by evil.
Attacks occur through lies and accusations aimed at communications and relationships within the organization, and amongst its peers. Significant character and moral weaknesses are priority targets (see How Satan Gets To Us), especially in leaders, because they use God’s authority and power to protect and implement the organization’s mission.
Examples of evil’s successful attacks on leaders and organizations, and the disasters that followed, both sacred and secular, have already been noted above. They are well known and need no reiteration here.
Following a successful attack, we tend to focus only on the moral and character failures of individuals. We tend not to examine if there was a breakdown in the spiritual protection (if any) provided by higher authority. In so doing, however, we overlook authority’s injunction to be the champion of peace, to protect us from being overshadowed and pushed back by evil; to prevent evil from taking hold, so good can be manifest.
Most Christians, who are assigned positions of authority in the sacred or secular, are already petitioning Our Lord in their daily prayer to protect and guide their mission and those entrusted to their care. Necessary and valuable as that is, petitioning Our Lord for blessings and graces is not the same as engaging in spiritual warfare to protect our responsibilities from spiritual attack.
Legitimate organizations are typically assaulted in one or all of the following categories:
- Attacks against the organization’s existence. This might involve calumny, fear, rebellion, jealousy, party spirit, and of course pride.
- Attacks against the mission and specific activities of the organization — its communications, relationships, talents, skills, resources and equipment; and the activities of other organizations on which the subject organization is significantly dependent.
- Attacks against individuals within the organization. We are each responsible for our own choices in our lives. But to the extent we are part of an organization, acting under someone else’s responsibility, that authority can extend a certain amount of protection to us while we are executing our assignments.
As Jesus’ disciples, we must conduct spiritual warfare daily to protect our responsibilities in both sacred and secular. Warfare is tailored to the specific situation, and proceeds from prayer, discernment, and the exercise of spiritual authority.
The examples above should not be seen as exhaustive, or some litany to be recited. They are shown only to illustrate the different types of attack that could be experienced, and areas to watch out for. For a complete presentation of how to conduct spiritual warfare, see The Gift Of Discernment, In The Name Of Jesus, and Weapons For Warfare.
The scriptural injunction that authorities provide peaceful lives for those in their care is significant. Protection is the watchword — protection of the organization, its mission and those involved in its execution. Justice, along with accountability and spiritual warfare, must be firmly in play to corral our human weaknesses and protect us from deceptions.
In an idealistic sense, all this may seem overwhelming. But, Our Lord, in His infinite mercy and justice, is there to support, guide and inspire: “…lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”(Mt 28:20 RSV)