And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. 

1st Corinthians [13:13] 

Within Catholic theology, there are three theological virtues; Faith, Hope, and Love. These virtues are considered divine and are gifts freely bestowed upon all of us through the grace of God. I recently discussed these three virtues with a Catholic friend and their impact on our perspective on life. He informed me that for Catholics, these three are holy virtues. Thus, sending me to research how and why these three virtues are considered sacred.

As a Methodist most of my adult life, this might seem odd to my fellow Methodists to study Catholicism. However, It really isn’t; as Methodists, one of our fundamental tenets is to explore God all we can. So with that thought in mind, I wanted to learn more.  

It seems that Thomas Aquinas developed this thought, using 1 Corinthians [13:13], where it says, And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. Aquinas explains that these three theological virtues are infused in us by God. Further, we come to know these virtues through our interactions with God. In effect, our choice to activate these virtues puts us in concert with God. 

It seems to me that a life without Faith, Hope, and Love would be a dark and dreary existence. A life of depression without any sunrise on the horizon and the absence of Jesus. Yet, I know people who lead this life. They are not entirely devoid of these three qualities; instead, they tend to see darkness and not light. For some, this perspective is a habit. For others, it was caused by an underlying set of events that causes sustained grief. And even sometimes caused by their environment.  

While not all causes of leading a dreary life can be remedied without outside help, most can. Simply choosing to redirect our thinking to Jesus and these God-given virtues will fix and help our perspective on life.  

For instance, Faith is belief in the unseen. We completely surrender ourselves to following Jesus, even when it’s not explicitly apparent our faith will help. A mindset of not being overly pragmatic about outcomes and changing our perspective from knowing tangibly and precisely what the future holds to being reassured that somehow Jesus is involved.  

Hope is simply knowing good will occur because Jesus exists in our lives. The opposite of Hope is despair. A state where nothing seems to go right. Like Faith, Hope is also a matter of perspective. We can choose to follow the course of hopelessness or believe the valley we are in will eventually end. Many times difficult trials are periods of divine preparation. A time of our growing and becoming prepared for our next challenge. The more we meet these challenges, the greater our growth. In turn, we don’t see the valleys of life despondently but as opportunities to rise up through a hopeful perspective.  

The Apostle Paul declares the greatest of the three virtues is Love. Love is a choice we make, and all have the capacity to love through the grace of God. When we do things without Love, we miss opportunities to lift up other people. Our acts, while honorable, have less value. Love is an act of giving without the desire for a reward: a conscious act to desire a benefit for the other person. Any action done with love is aligned with Jesus.  

Perspective is a matter of our free will. We all can choose to embrace, Faith, Hope, and Love. When we do, we open our hearts to Jesus and activate these three gifts from God. Instead of thorns, we will see roses. Life will become lighter. For some, this is a mighty challenge because of life circumstances. But for most of us, it is simply a matter of redirecting our thoughts to see good and trust Jesus. 

Love your neighbor as yourself 

Matthew [22:39] 

In an age where pronouns are hotly debated and discussed, the pronoun WE seldom comes up. Yet in our lives and especially our business lives, WE is most important. Almost everything we do in business and life is related to combining our efforts with someone else, whether a customer, friend, co-worker, subordinate, or supervisor.  

Every effort in these exchanges requires a sense of goodwill towards those with whom we work. Goodwill towards the other person we associate with is a vital part of being successful. However, goodwill is also a surrendering of our individual needs to a team effort of accomplishment—surrendering what we want to a combined effort of collaboration of team goals.  

While we may accomplish something by ourselves or dictate the actions to someone else, our efforts will always be less without the genuine commitment from and to those with whom we work.  

I have a friend with whom I work, named Bill, who consistently demonstrates this attitude. When we work together, he is very concerned about doing his part. For example, recently, we collaborated on editing and preparing my next book. Bill was apprehensive about making sure he knew my deadlines and what his requirements were.  

As I laid out our goals, Bill added action steps that would make a better product. Not pushy or insistent, constantly probing to look for a better way. When Bill was sure he had the project understood and the timelines right, he agreed to proceed. I knew he would hit his timeline from working with Bill in the past, and the results would be far better than I expected.  

Bill called a few days before the deadline and asked if we were still on track to meet to discuss his work. The day before our meeting, Bill sent me his work to review. When I reviewed the material Bill sent, I was elated. Not only had he achieved what was expected, but many other things were also added that made the project so much better than if I had done the work myself. I remember sitting at my desk, amazed at what Bill had done.  

Later, when we met, Bill laid out how he accomplished his task. Telling me, he had found a person who was better than him at consolidating words, which made the book more concise and readable. He relayed how he had spent a few nights checking references and citations to make sure they were accurate. A process typically done when the project was completed. In our conversation, I could actually feel his total commitment to living up to his personal standards.  

Bill had complied with all the standards required by the pronoun WE. Working with Bill is always refreshing because he adds value and makes projects far better than what I usually envisioned. Bill’s commitment to WE inspires me to do the same with him. His commitment to WE sets a standard for whom and how I work with other people. 

Bill is a very committed Christian, and long ago, he surrendered to Jesus. Knowing all that he accomplished was through the grace of Christ. In turn, this surrendering moved himself from to WE. And there are few Bible verses more important to Bill than love your neighbor as thyself. In all of Bill’s work and our relationship, he exhibits this trait.  

Bill lives this commandment not only as his duty but through his heart. We all know these people in our lives. When something needs to get done, they are always early in showing up. They add value in surprising ways. They surrender their needs for the overall good, and their reward is only with a job well done.  

It seems to me, we need more Bill’s in our business and personal lives. In a time of discussion about pronouns and which are best, I think we would all be better at what we do if We were our first thought. Try it out with your next engagement and watch the results become better than what we thought.  

Work as if working for the Lord Christ.

Colossians [3:23]-24

Recently I received an email promotion that said I had won a free airline ticket. Immediately I opened the email to see how I had won a free airline ticket. Suspicious, I scoured the fine print and discovered I really hadn’t won a ticket. It was just a request to read more about the company and had a minimal chance of winning the ticket. In return, I would have to fill out a lengthy form, which asked for things like a phone number, my address, and email address. Quickly, I deleted the email and thought to myself, why be so deceptive?

It probably seemed like a good idea to the company, hoping to land new customers. In reality, it likely turned off a lot of potential buyers. Why not just send an email that explained the benefits of doing business with the company. Or better yet, provide excellent customer service to the loyal customers and let word of mouth generate more sales.

Too often, we receive these suspicious emails, which do nothing more than clutter up our email. It makes me wonder, How would Jesus want businesses to create raving fans? I am pretty sure Jesus would want these businesses to take a different approach. He would like them to treat their customers as they wanted to be treated. Jesus would ask them to hire people committed to providing great customer service. These businesses should also produce a product as if they are working for the Lord. And finally, always be truthful. Four simple but essential business practices to attract lifelong customers and, in the process, create raving fans.

The Golden Rule

In Matthew [7:12], Jesus says, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. This is wise advice. Before we put any marketing effort to work, we should ask ourselves, Is this the way we want to be treated? If our answer is no, then we shouldn’t. Deceptive methods in marketing will never produce raving fans of our business. Instead, our reputation will be sullied.

Loyal customers who are raving fans will create a firm foundation for any business. Not only that, they will provide repeat business and attract other customers. We should never forget that most purchases from new customers come from the reviews of the existing customers. Yes, Jesus is giving us wise customer service advice with the Golden Rule.

Hire Great People and Pay Them Well

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells the story of a manager who had to leave for a while. The manager gave his three employees tasks to perform while he was gone. Two of the employees did their job and doubled their efforts. When the manager came back and saw the bounty created, he gave them a raise and more responsibility.

I am sure all current business managers would want these two people working in their company. These workers are the type of people who will also treat customers in the same manner by going the extra mile to make sure the customer is satisfied. Over time having workers like this changes culture and helps sales.

Continually seeking great employees and treating them well will always produce excellent results. And managers should be quick to reward, and these rewards will reinforce what is required.

Produce Products As If They Are For the Lord

Having the right attitude and the right employees is very important. Equally important is to produce quality products. Jesus has a simple mindset to accomplish this facet of business, work as if working for the Lord Christ. (Colossians [3:23]-24) What a great perspective! Simply work and produce products you would proud to give to Jesus.

All flaws in production would be attended to immediately. Saving money at the customer’s expense by not addressing product quality is a flawed strategy. Companies that employ this attitude will have people meet to collaborate to make sure everything has been properly thought through.

The company would quickly become a place that desires to create raving fans. A commitment to excellent customer service will replace a penny-wise, dollar foolish mindset. In turn, the company will become far more sustainable than one which cuts corners.

Never Deceive Customers or Employees

In business, there is always the temptation to stretch further than you should in generating sales or a better outcome. Perhaps the pressure of making sure you hit a certain sales number to make the month-end goals. We have all witnessed this in our business careers. And perhaps in the short term, these efforts produce the immediate desired results.

However, lurking in the future is a payback moment that will often be greater than short-term gains. Customers will sometimes complain about the deception. But most will avoid the confrontation and silently begin moving away. It will show up in reviews posted on the internet. Soon, the once-strong sales base will become weak.

Maintaining a strong sense of Christian ethics will help avoid this dilemma. It may sound corny, but if all our actions are connected to the often-used phrase; What would Jesus do, short-term decisions will be replaced with longer-term choices.

Customers are the life-blood of every business. Serving these customers well will ensure a great future for any company. Every company’s goals should start with making their customers raving fans. It doesn’t happen with deceitful marketing efforts. It happens with a company’s commitment to excellence, great employees, truthfulness, and empathy for the customer. We only need to turn to the lessons of Jesus to create an environment that, in turn, makes raving fans.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

-Matthew [7:12]

As I entered the church, I was impressed by the age and size of the church. A monolith that had been built in the mid-19th century. I found the reception desk and politely asked if I could see the pastor. When asked, what would you like to talk to him about? I replied, I have just published a new book called Jesus & Co. and wanted to introduce him to my book. The woman took a copy of the book and went into an office. After a few moments, she returned and told me to go right in.

As I entered the room, I saw the trappings of a well-appointed office. Far grander than those I had seen during my time as a CFO for Fortune 500 companies. The office was filled with memorabilia and expensive furniture. A comfortable place where I am sure the pastor spent many hours preparing material for Sunday services and greeting guests. I sat down, introduced myself, and handed the book to the pastor. Silently he sat thumbing through my book, leaving me waiting for him to talk.

After a while, he raised his eyes from the pages and told me, what I had done was sinful. Very far from what I expected he would say, and immediately I was off balance mentally. I had been visiting churches in the area that day with copies of my book and hoping to garner some interest. A day that turned out to be very long and extraordinarily unproductive. Now I heard the reason why.

He proceeded to scold me on combining the sacredness of Jesus with the sinful nature of business, even saying that all marketing was inherently evil. He boldly believed all business was bad. A comment that completely went across the grain of what I had seen in my business career.

As a Fortune 500 CFO, sure, I had seen some instances of evil, but far more often saw people committed to doing the right thing. This was the business world I knew. Ethics and fair play were usually the primary concern.

As I sat there stunned at the pastor’s comment. Not just because of what he said, but how quickly and directly he blurted out his statement. It had unnerved me and left me off balance. It was one of those moments when you think later about what you should have said but couldn’t because you were taken by surprise.

I listened to his narrative about how corrupt businesspeople were and how sinful they lived—surprising me with his negativity towards my previous life. His narrative was not created by experience, instead what he had learned from reading newspapers. Sheepishly, I left his office dismayed and discouraged.

Later, after collecting my thoughts, I realized I had a long road to go in helping people see Jesus was good for business. Both an experienced business person and trained theologian, I thought, why couldn’t Jesus be good for business?

The Importance of Jesus’ Golden Rule

It seems to me; first, we must let go of our biases and look factually at what Jesus said and relate Jesus’ comments to various facets of business. Let’s start with the Golden Rule and excellent customer service.

In Matthew [7:12], Jesus says, So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. This verse directly states how a business should treat its customers. Simply treat customers the same way you want to be treated. Customers are the lifeblood of any company, and when they are satisfied, the company will be healthy. And there is no better way to accomplish this strategy than treating customers the way we want to be treated. It really is this simple.

Work As If Working For The Lord

The work of any business and its employees needs to have a great attitude towards its efforts. And there is no better attitude than what is described in Colossians [3:23], where it says; Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. Wow, imagine if every effort you attempted during a workday was designed to please Jesus. It would undoubtedly sharpen your efforts. And certainly, help ensure all your activities are honorable.

Imagine the outstanding reputation that would be created. A business filled with trust, positive attitudes, and desirous of being the best all the time. A company with a Jesus-first mentality will attract the right people and loyal customers. Short-term practices with weak moral values will disappear and become replaced with longer-term, more ethical practices.

The Truth Will Set You Free

Another aspect of being successful and ethical is being riveted on the truth. Jesus in John [8:32] tells us why, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Companies and people that look for the truth don’t make bad decisions. They know the facts, which leads to better, more sustainable solutions. These companies and people will not have to worry about what they did or how they accomplish their work. They will become free of future disasters because they know the truth and acted morally.

The point here is Jesus is good for business, and mixing Jesus with business isn’t sinful. While I am sure the pastor who was so abrupt with me didn’t mean harm. He probably thought he was helping. There is temptation in business, as there is any facet of life. But the message and ways of Jesus help us navigate life in a positive and trustworthy manner. Whether we are doctors, scientists, authors, or business people, knowing Jesus and using his lessons are the most essential facets of our work.

Jesus is good for business!

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A Final Message About “Fully” Accepting Jesus

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

Matthew [16:21]

Today is the final installment in our series, Jesus Is Everything. As I sat watching the Two Popes movie, I was both inspired by the movie and compelled to know more about Pope Francis. In my research, I discovered lots of interesting information. Mostly inspiring and good, and like all of us, Pope Francis has a few skeletons.

He has a number of first’s to his credit; the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from South America, the first non-European Pope since the 8th century, the first Pope to speak to the joint session of Congress, the first Pope not to live in the Papal apartments and the first Pope to preach in front of one million people in the United States. He is a populist Pope who is heavily indoctrinated in pastoral theology.

Pope Francis is both very smart and personable, which allowed him to rise quickly in the Jesuit ranks. He became a Cardinal in 2001 and quickly became admired by the other cardinals. In fact, after the death of John Paul the second in 2005, after only being a Cardinal for four years, was the runner-up in choosing the New Pope. A remarkable ascent.

He became the Pope in 2013 after Pope Benedict resigned due to murky controversies. As the Cardinals were meeting to discuss the next Pope, a fellow Cardinal went up to Pope Francis and said; Don’t forget the poor. After his election, Pope Francis remembered this advice and believing it was a message of providence, selected the name Francis, after Saint Francis. His reasoning as he states; Saint Francis was a  man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man.

Pope Francis grew up in a middle-class family in Argentina.  Prior to becoming the Pope his name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He had a fairly normal childhood and was reasonably educated. At first, he was a chemist prior to entering the Jesuit Seminary. He is an avid soccer fan and loves to Tango. He had a couple of romantic interests as a young adult and almost was engaged. He was always torn between following the priesthood or leading a secular life. A confusion that delayed his ordination as a priest until the age of thirty-one. In fact, he told one girlfriend, If I don’t become a priest, I would want to be married to you.

Pope Francis is not without controversy. Early in his ministry and as a leader of the Jesuit Society of Argentina, Francis was criticized for not doing more to stand up to the military Junta that terrorized Argentina in the late 1970s. He has not denounced gay marriage, which has led the conservative faction of the church to complain. His response; If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge? Many have also suggested that Pope Francis has been slow in dealing with the Catholic child abuse scandal. For a time, even the Jesuit society was critical, because he was too pastoral and concerned with religiosity, versus social Justice.

At his center, Francis is a humble man and remains committed to helping people, especially the poor. He avoids the material trappings of being a Pope. In fact, he still wears his Iron cross from his time as a bishop. He leans more to mercy than judgment, which we find in one of his more famous quotes; A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.

Certainly, all this is nice to know and gives us color into the life of Pope Francis. In my research, I wanted to discover more, like how did he find and fully accept Jesus. A friend of mine, Tom Stanton, once told me, You have to fully embrace Jesus to fully experience Jesus. A well-intentioned comment that has made me think over the last year, what did Tom mean by fully and how does one arrive at this point? As my year has preceded, I have turned this thought, Fully, over and over in my mind. As I was doing my research on Pope Francis, I discovered what Tom was talking about when he said, fully.

Pope Francis has a three-step process to fully accepting Jesus, the first two are easy. First, we must find Jesus. Doing things like reading the Bible, going to church, or attending a Bible study. In this step, we are both compelled and desirous of finding Jesus. The second step is our outward proclamation; which includes, wearing crosses, leaving Bibles on our desk, singing in church, or speak openly about Jesus. In this step, we are not embarrassed or afraid to say what we know about Jesus.

The third and final step is where the word, fully comes into play. Pope Francis says we must fully believe in the resurrection of Jesus, to fully accept Jesus. While the first two steps are easy to absorb, this third step is the biggest hurdle in our journey to fully knowing Jesus. It involves believing Jesus’ sacrificial act on the cross gives all humankind redemption.  We must both understand the importance of the cross and the sacredness of the gift Jesus has given us. When we do, it moves us from seeing our lives as permanently residing in this world to seeing our lives as an eternal pursuit of the divine. In this moment of belief, we no longer intellectualize the cross, but fully have faith in Jesus’ act on the cross. With this faith, we become both freed and redeemed. The movements of this world take on far less meaning and our worries subside. Both our inner and outer expressions transform into loving God and our neighbor.

For Pope Francis, our fully accepting Jesus happens with the help of the Holy Spirit. A calling out to the Spirit to both change us and guide us. I have long held that this part of the journey is very unique, different from individual to individual. When completed, we no longer have a foot in two worlds. We are no longer Catholics or Methodists, we are first Christians. Pope Francis describes this attitude as follows; The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!

This journey to fully believing in Jesus is different for every person. And for each individual there will be moments of remorse when we fail to live what we have fully accepted; and moments of joy when we live what we have fully accepted. Fully accepting Jesus; can take the time or happen in an instant, but should be constantly pursued.

I hope and pray for all those on this journey of faith, that this helps in some way.

For my readers over the last three years, this is my last regular posting of a blog for a while. My fourth book is underway and will require my full attention until it is published on March 31st. Until then, be at peace and enjoy the blessings of Jesus.

 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash