The Bigger Deal About the Bill Hybels Accusations

Stunned. Saddened. Angered. Grieved. Determined. Questioning.

I have this jumbled mix of emotions upon reading the Chicago Tribune article. How can this be? Who is really telling the truth? I know there are no absolutely perfect professions that get a pass on scandal. No perfect families, no impeccable churches, no spotless tribes of churches, and there are certainly no perfect pastors. (I know that first-hand.) But I find myself scratching my head and proclaiming:

“Not Bill. O Lord, not Bill.”

I am very aware that Bill adamantly denies the accusations. (I so hope he’s telling the truth!) What should I think, since the likes of Ortberg, Jimmy, and Nancy have joined their voices purporting that the accusations may carry some validity. They have been trustworthy friends of Willow Creek (and it feels like friends to so many of us as readers and listeners over the years). Whom to believe?

In the wild wake of #MeToo, the raucous flood of high-profile Hollywood accusations, as well as the skeletons in the closets of a much-too-muddy White House, we have settled into a ridiculous new normal. What we might have known a year ago as a healthy sense of disgust when hearing blasts of smutty news now gives way to a cold case of calloused numbness, a grogginess that’s settled over our collective conscience.

The Hybels accusations serve as a fresh slap to my sleepy soul. I cannot help but wake up and ask: “How can so many mature people who claim to know better act this way? Really? No! Enough is enough!”

“Not Bill. O Lord, not Bill.”

Sadly, such sickening scenarios are lose-lose-lose. Someone is lying while someone is truth telling. In the process, they each lose big-time. But there is another bigger, even sadder set of losers. No matter which side is right, the “skeptics, moralists, and long-time seekers” just grew less trusting and took another step away from the kingdom. I grieve and say to my skeptical and seeking friends, “Please, O please, I beg you to believe that there are still some good and reliable Christians left in the world. I so hope and pray at the end of the day, you remember how much we all need God’s loving grace. That includes Bill—and you and me—and every person pulsing on the planet.”

For many of us, “Me too” is no longer something that remains in the safe distance of a far-off scandal traipsed as tabloid in the Tribune, splashed across Christianity Today’s weekend headline, or blasted across a CNN banner. It hits way too close to home for that friend or family member who suddenly has to leave their job due to a previous season of sinful indiscretion. Many of us know someone not in the presidential, Hollywood, or mega-pastor limelight experiencing something that feels like collateral damage during this dreadfully punitive season. The self-centered choices and slippery compromise finally came home to roost. The pain is real.

In actuality, accusations of infidelity and sexual misconduct are as old as some of humanity’s famous families. The stunning story of Joseph in Egypt features a season when he was rising in influence, second in charge to a powerful man’s household. Joseph was relentlessly tempted; he remarkably resisted but was framed by his seductress. (See the Hebrew Scripture’s account, Genesis, chapter 39 for more of the story.)

Sage workplace author Tom Nelson elaborates: “When it comes to sexual temptation in the workplace, we don’t have to go out of our way to look for it; it often finds us. Joseph’s wise response to sexual temptation in the workplace is a model for us to emulate. Joseph didn’t cozy up to sexual temptation, he fled from it.”[1]

What’s the big deal? Our core struggle with workplace temptation lies deep inside. Jesus’ wisdom shines his probing searchlight on our eyes and hearts (Matthew 5:27-30). Lust is sparked when we indulgently imagine how people can be used for our self-serving interests instead of genuinely loved. God’s style of selfless love aims at practically caring for others’ best interests, not using or abusing them from our own places of power and control.

How do we develop a strategy to stand strong against workplace temptation, or as in Joseph’s case, to decisively run away? In Taking Your Soul to Work, R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung urge these five strategy steps:

(1) Know that your heart’s desires are for God. Hunger and passion for God put all lesser desires into perspective. (2) Reduce exposure to erotic stimulation in your choice of movies, novels, and Internet sites. Put a plan in place that will help you avoid temptation on business trips. (3) Pray for a colleague, a customer, or a supervisor whom you find attractive. Choose God’s perspective on the person instead of treating her/him as “just a body” to be visually consumed. (4) Seek accountability partners; commit to transparently answering tough questions. (5) Identify the early beginnings of lustful thoughts. Heightened vigilance in advance allows you to be more responsive to the Spirit’s guidance.[2]

Instead of being trapped in daily rituals of workplace lust and other sexual sins, we can stand strong. We can run away, stay pure, and truly honor Christ. With such choices, we will honor others with more wholesome love at work.

What is the truly bigger deal about the Bill Hybels accusations? Upon deeper reflection, I am struck with this reality. Instead of saying: “Not Bill. O Lord, not Bill,” I need to be saying, “Not me. O Lord, not me!”

Rather than shaking our heads in dismay over such scandals, jumping on judgment bandwagons, or allowing ourselves to be further numbed by the relentless shock to any remaining thread of moral leadership compass, we must realize we are called to genuine love. After all, virtues like decency, purity, and loving respect for others are God’s high calling for all of us—not just the mega-leaders of today’s world.

New levels of loving respect must start with everyday leaders—like you and me—making those solid, everyday choices. I want to stand strong. I want to stay holy and true to my wife and children, committed through and through as a truly good leader.

Will you join me in making fresh commitments to wholesome and holy love, the kind of love that is relentlessly loyal to those with whom we live and work each day?

May we all join our determined voices: “Not me. O Lord, not me!”

[1]Tom Nelson. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 173.

[2]R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung. Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 26-31.

 

How Cheesy is Your Job?

I love cheese! In our kitchen, cheese is often employed at all three meals of the day (Yes, even at breakfast on my bagel with an egg and pepperoni). Cheese makes everything taste better! Apparently unbeknown to many of us, we have been sprinkling our spaghetti and meatballs with a bit more than the green and red canisters claim.

Stunning news broke last October. The president of Castle Cheese in Slippery Rock, PA was sentenced to two hundred hours of community service, a five thousand dollar fine, and three years probation. The offense? Her company was caught selling Parmesan cheese that was not fully cheese.

Both the U.S. FDA and IRS raided Castle Cheese’s facility in early 2013 and discovered their products included substitute ingredients such as cellulose, an additive produced from wood pulp. The problem of adulterated cheese is not limited to Castle’s plant. A Bloomberg News report in February 2016 cited broad-based, nationwide test results of various companies claiming to sell 100 percent grated Parmesan. An independent lab found cellulose levels as high as 8.8 percent.[1]

What’s the big deal, besides my gag reflex at the thought of digesting wood chips with my pasta? Why such public outcry and legal proceedings? Two correlating issues are in play, issues that actually hold big personal implications for our own jobs every day.

First, integrity in business is at stake. What do we expect to be produced by a cheese company? Well, um, cheese please. (And though some cellulose supposedly serves as a non-clumping agent, our collective conscience demands that what they say on their label will truly be what they are really selling.) Before we get too high and mighty, judging the cheese makers’ false blend, let’s take stock of our own work products and services. Our customers and clients expect nothing less of our ingenuity, time investments, and relational focus.

Will we step up as leaders, to design and deliver our most creative, thoughtful, and empowering goods and services? We are amazingly created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28) and whatever our daily tasks, we are called to serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24). With such divine identity motivating us, there can be an ever-growing uptick in the quality and integrity with which we work.

Second, there’s a crucial link between such authentic excellence and our witness for Christ. Tom Nelson urges us: “The excellence of our work often gives us the credibility to speak of the excellence of our Lord Jesus and to share the good news of the gospel with our coworkers.”[2] We want to be sure that with both our words and our goods, we are serving up beautiful, deliciously genuine helpings of the gospel!

Bottom line: No wood filler in our work.

Let’s make certain our jobs are very cheesy!

 

 

 

 

[1]https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-11/cheese-executive-gets-probation-fine-for-fake-parmesan

[2]Tom Nelson. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 96.

Workplace Sex Trysts: A Strategy for Standing Strong

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Diet Coke, circa mid-90’s, flaunted one very steamy TV ad. An office full of women suddenly begin whispering to each other, “It’s 11:30.” As the commercial commences, they scurry to the office windows to ogle. A male construction worker on ground level removes his sweat-soaked shirt and begins lusciously drinking a Diet Coke. Apparently, this has become a daily workplace ritual for these women. Though lusting should never be a laughing matter, the commercial’s format draws a chuckle twenty years later. The gawking women wear big-framed 80’s eye-wear and oh-so-poofy hair; the bare-chested eye candy is sporting a far-from-chiseled four-pack. And in retrospect, what real man sips Diet Coke anyway?

Workplace temptation runs rampant. Place people together for extended blocks of time, working close on endeavors of big consequence, and the affection temperature is bound to rise. Glances are exchanged and soon feelings are shared; flirtation seems innocent, but sparks begin to fly. Then all too quickly, something hotter kindles. So how can we develop a strategy for sexual integrity in our workplaces, a wholesomeness that matches Christ’s heart for business leaders and workers in every profession?

The young biblical hunk, Joseph, stands as a stunning example in overcoming workplace temptation. Genesis 39 records the racy scene. Promoted to second in command over a large estate in Egypt, Joseph soon caught the wandering eye of the owner’s wife. Mrs. Potiphar repeatedly made her temptress moves, “day after day,” the story records. Joseph repeatedly resisted, finally stating emphatically that such indulgence would be a serious violation of his relationship with God (Gen. 39:9). This young man’s conviction and stance, so far away from his father Jacob’s oversight, was astounding. Finally, Joseph employed the best strategy ever. In a moment of brilliant insight, he did the most courageous thing. He ran away! (explore more on such a strategy in 1 Corinthians 6:17-20) His reward? He was quickly framed by the scorned, pouting, plotting temptress. (I know, shocker!) And he was promptly tossed in the deep, dank confines of prison. (See the rest of the story in Genesis 40 through 50.) Tom Nelson elaborates: “When it comes to sexual temptation in the workplace, we don’t have to go out of our way to look for it; it often finds us. Joseph’s wise response to sexual temptation in the workplace is a model for us to emulate. Joseph didn’t cozy up to sexual temptation, he fled from it.”[1]

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What’s the big deal? Our core struggle with lust is that we imagine how people can be used for our self-serving interests instead of genuinely loved. God’s style of selfless love aims at practically caring for others’ best interests, not using or abusing them. How do we develop a strategy, to stand strong against workplace temptation, or as in Joseph’s case, to decisively run away? In Taking Your Soul to Work, R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung urge these five strategy steps:

(1) Know that your heart’s desires are for God. Hunger and passion for God put all lesser desires into perspective. (2) Reduce exposure to erotic stimulation in your choice of movies, novels, and Internet sites. Put a plan in place that will help you avoid temptation on business trips. (3) Pray for a colleague, a customer, or a supervisor whom you find attractive. Choose God’s perspective on the person instead of treating her/him as “just a body” to be visually consumed. (4) Seek accountability partners. (5) Identify the early beginnings of lustful thoughts. Heightened vigilance in advance allows you to be more responsive to the Spirit’s guidance.[2]

Instead of being trapped in daily rituals of workplace lust and other sexual sins, we can stand strong. We can run away, stay pure, and truly honor Christ. We can honor others with more wholesome love at work.

[1]Tom Nelson. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 173.

[2]R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung. Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 26-31.

4 Reasons You Can Whistle @ Work

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I could not help but chuckle. My morning walk on the golf course cart path was proving to be gorgeous. Leaves revealed a hint of fallish tint. The mid-September sky was bright, and the air was crisp. Amid the rustling treetops, birds were chirping, but I was suddenly struck by another high tone, piercing the soundscape. Overtop the birdsong and gentle hum of a green machine at work, there danced a stunning, pronounced melody. The tune was distinct, recognizably classic in cadence, echoing off the arcade of trees and turf. I scanned in all directions, eventually to discover that the beautiful whistling was coming from the lips of the hard-working grounds keeper. It was a stunning, spot-on-pitch performance—and he was oblivious to having an audience. ‘Top of his lungs, he kept whistling, and I laughed aloud.

Immediately struck with amazement and query, I thought, “It’s very early morning; his work is tedious, mundane, for sure. It’s repetitive and ridiculously thankless for that matter.” Confession: I’ve never gone back to the clubhouse after a round of golf to deliberately compliment, tip, or otherwise praise the grounds crew. But here’s this early morning laborer, whistling as he works, with volume level at Max 10.

So what gives? ‘Something special in his 5 a.m. java? How can the rest of us find healthier joy in our daily work, whatever we do? Based on God’s view of work, I’ll suggest four reasons we can whistle in our work this week.

YOUR WORK TODAY MAKES GOD SMILE.

God originally made us in his image—his very likeness as creative coworkers—and he called us to work. In Genesis 2:15, we discover that a great big part of this imago Dei and our original call was for humans to work the garden. The Hebrew word for work carries the ideas of labor, service, and worship. Originally, this was all good, all positive. Yes, Genesis 3 records the curse in response to the Fall, but work was originally a part of God’s very good plans for humans. In response to the Curse’s ugly consequences, God’s story unfolds redemptive plans to renew all of creation, including work and its creative outcome (Rom. 8).[1] When we work, God smiles.

YOUR WORK TODAY IS THE OVERFLOW OF GRACE.

Our everyday work is part of our living out God’s saving grace. He planned for it! Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith; it’s not of our own good works. Yet, we discover with verse 10 that the overflow of God’s creativity, his remaking us, is that we now ACTIVELY live out creative good works. Faith is indeed about DOING something. He planned in advance for us to accomplish good works.

WHATEVER IT IS—YOUR WORK CAN SERVE CHRIST AND MAKE HIM FAMOUS!

For your own deeper inspiration and recalibration of perspective, explore these verses. Soak up fresh motivation for the soul of your work. See 1 Cor. 10:31 and Colossians 3:23-24.

YOUR WORK MATCHES JESUS’ HEART, ACTIONS, AND MISSION.

Jesus’ own example and his kingdom teachings are full of business and workplace implications. Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was a tekton, one who works with his hands. We often forget that Jesus was a carpenter and/or sculptor many more years than he was the traveling rabbi and miracle-worker. As a result, Jesus knew business and marketplace workers. Perhaps this sheds some light on why the majority of his parables are infused with business context and kingdom principles related to everyday work scenarios. Tom Nelson reminds us:

“Working with his hands day in and day out in a carpentry shop was not below Jesus. Jesus did not see his carpentry work as mundane or meaningless, for it was the work his Father had called him to do. I have a good hunch that Jesus was a top-notch carpenter and did top-notch work . . . I am sure there were many things that made the Father well pleased, but one important aspect of Jesus’ well-pleasing life that we must not overlook was his well-pleasing work as a carpenter.”[2]

So, as the golf course greens keeper continued whistling, I found myself grinning and saying, “Sign me up! I want what he’s having!” God’s smile, great big grace, his glory, and Jesus’ own work—four reasons you can rejoice with God in your work today. Let’s get whistling!

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[1]Darrell Cosden, The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. (United Kingdom: Paternoster Press, 2006), 86-91.

[2]Tom Nelson, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 90.