Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Winning a Brother Back

Recognizing that there is no such thing in this world as a business transaction - every interaction that we have is a relational one, involving a human being at some point - we have to look for wisdom not at what Jesus said to do with the world, but at how He said to engage human beings. 

Here, one of the passages that jumps immediately out is Matthew 18:15-17, where Jesus talks about confronting a brother who has sinned against you. There are some fundamental differences between mere disputes or dissatisfactions and actual sins; it would not be fair to say that a person who falls short of what he has promised, unintentionally, has sinned against you. Rather, he has only erred. He has only shown his human weakness.

It's an important line to draw, especially in a world that's growing more entitled every day. We think we have the right for others never to fail us, for everything to be perfect, for us to always get exactly what we expect and often, even more than that, and that any failure by anyone to give us this is clearly a sin. At the very least, it's personal. At the very, very least, it's intentional. After all, those who serve us ought to know how to do their jobs. They ought to be the experts at whatever it is we're paying them to do. If they fail, they meant to, and doesn't this make it a sin against us?

No. A million times no. That's why we have to start with recognizing the real human beings at the heart of any interaction, including our business dealings. That's why we, as Christians, have to stand against the tide and stop pretending we are entitled to this or that or the other, especially when we are prone to presume we are entitled because we have paid money for it. We, as Christians, have to be the first ones to get over ourselves so that we can get on to loving others the way that Jesus has called us to love them.

It's not a sin. It's a mistake, maybe. A weakness, perhaps. An area of oversight or a novel problem that requires something beyond training. But it's not a sin. 

Still, the words of Jesus in Matthew 18 offer some helpful guidance for beginning to engage these situations. Most important of them all is the way that He requires us to begin with our brother, with one person who is directly involved in the situation at hand.

In an age of social media and online reviews and television news "investigative teams" and all of the other ways that we have to quickly ruin a reputation, we seem to have forgotten this. We seem to have forgotten how to attempt to solve our disputes personally. We take to the masses almost immediately and draw someone else through the mud, all the while claiming the high road because we are somehow "right" about it all when really, we are only acting entitled. (See above.) 

Most of the time, it's our fear that gets us. Or our powerlessness. We sense, in our entitlement, that the big, bad business is playing a game with us, using the strength of its force to crush the little guy, and so it seems only natural to us to take to social media, to news teams, to the masses, to whoever or whatever can get power back on our side so that we don't feel so small. 

Jesus says, start small. Start with the person. Start with your brother. Start with the human being and see if there's not a way that the two of you, as human beings, can figure out to resolve this. And if the human being agrees that something wrong has been done and is willing to attempt to remedy the situation, then what has happened here is a beautiful thing. It is endowed with dignity. This is the way to go.

It's also how I got myself onto the long road, taking two months to resolve a problem. Because every time, I started with the man. I started with the human being. I started with a phone call or a drop into the office to say, hey, something's still not right here. Do you want to try again? And every time, he said yes, he wanted to try again. He wanted to make this right. And every time, we had a chance to talk more, to become more real to one another - not just as customer and company, but as two human beings who actually shared a lot of the same ideas. 

People said I was crazy. Foolish. Stupid. That I was doing this the hard way, and all it would take was one good strategic move to swing this whole situation back my way and end it once and for all. But I had a brother here. And the more that I engaged this man one-on-one, addressing the problem as two human beings just trying to find a way through, the more I recognized him as my brother. 

And you never know, you might just win a brother back.

That, Jesus says, is the point of it all. Not getting your money back. Not getting your due. Not getting what you paid for or what you expected or what you feel entitled to. Not obtaining the proper service or receiving the proper good, but extending grace and doing good and winning your brother back. Because at the heart of it all, even on opposite sides of the cash register, are the hearts of men.

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