Strange Bedfellows: when your enemy turns out to be your friend

"Jesus suggests that in His Kingdom, that which seems normal is turned upside down—the most abhorred has become a neighbour."

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “nothing personal, it’s just business” that usually follows an explanation for why some aspect of a deteriorating relationship because of supposed superior merits of a business objective. We might have been fired, maybe charged more than expected, or even had an agreement fall through. On a grander scale, this phrase has justified plant closures, land accretions, community abandonment, and even environmental degradation. Globally, the consumption of natural resources and the environmental and social costs of industry have been similarly justified. “Nothing personal, it’s just business.” Not anymore. The world has changed… for the better.

“Canadians now rank charities and businesses as equally responsible for solving societal problems,” according to the Dean of the business school at Queens University in a recent article in The Globe and Mail. She concludes, “a business that tries to swim against this current, or a leader who is not socially engaged is not in tune with what’s happening in society and will not succeed.” We are no longer in some laissez faire world of “nothing personal.” Business has become very personal, so much so that a business that does not make the world a better place will fail. What happened? For churches wrestling with a sense of decline, why might this change in business be encouraging? Even our church, in particular!

When Jesus upset the rulers of the day with the Sermon on the Mount, he changed his language and started teaching in parables, in rich word pictures that his listeners could enter and experience. In one of the most well-known parables that we call “The Good Samaritan” we encounter a question “who is my neighbour?” When we climb inside the story and lie alongside the wounded man by the side of the road, and share in that vulnerability and sense of helplessness, when we see who passes us by, who helps, and we see how unreasonable such an action was and still is—sworn enemies being friends—we find an odd alignment. Jesus suggests that in His Kingdom, that which seems normal is turned upside down—the most abhorred has become a neighbour. What an odd world Christ seems to suggest! As His followers, we might want to wonder if something quite topsy-turvy were not happening all around us. Are churches and businesses perhaps neighbours? How odd!

What would happen if your parish were to find common cause with a local business? What could be possible together?

In the weeks and months that follow, in these posts, I hope we can explore together how the kind of organization that we call a ‘business’ is being transformed in ways that should warrant not only our enthusiasm but our encouragement and active engagement but even—perish the thought—emulation. I hope you will read along and join the conversation into which I now invite the much-needed companionship of God’s Spirit.

Imaginative God, open our eyes so that we can see what you are up to around us. Surprise us with the creative ways in which you work everything together for good, for those that love You. Often, we are fearful for your Church. We feel challenged on every side. We too lie bruised by the side of the road, too wounded to move on. Come and surprise us with the ways you restore and bring new life, perhaps even from our ‘enemies’. Help us to watch expectantly. Amen

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