Thursday, September 13, 2007

Market-able Christians

No. 44, 14 December 2006

by Martien Kelderman

Jesus told us we were to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). We all know the blessings and the curses of salt. Too little and you notice it, too much and again you notice it. Both too little and too much bring out negative reactions. Salt is at its best when it brings out the best flavour. Salt is at its best when it brings out that which God intended for the earth.

A Christian brother who prefers not to be named (I will call him Bob) asked me to join him for coffee recently to discuss an issue of recruitment. Bob works in IT and has his own small group of about six IT engineers. The business was growing and Bob was keen to add to the team. There are not many spare IT engineers around in the market at the moment and Bob had met a young man in the industry (lets call him Joe), a Christian who worked for another small IT company owned by Andrew, also a Christian.

Joe was young, hard working, very clever and really just the sort of person Bob needed. Bob had made ‘I am interested in employing you’ noises and have received in reply appropriate ‘I am interested in coming over’ responses.

Bob asked. “What is the right way to recruit Joe? I can offer him an attractive salary package, but I am concerned how I should deal with Andrew who, after all, is a brother in the Lord. I don’t want to do wrong.

A good question, perhaps not one we should limit to ‘brothers in the Lord’. But hey! The family is a good place to practice.

I asked what normal market practice was as he understood it. “Oh that’s easy, you just find a moment where you can catch the young man on his own, make him an attractive offer and encourage him to come as quickly as possible.” And no, in the market there is no worry about the consequences to the other persons business. That’s just life.

You might insist on (or agree to) the young man giving proper notice on the basis that you would like him to do the same to you if the situation were reversed.

Bob and I agreed that, in the Kingdom of God, there had to be a better way – one richer in flavour. Christ does call for us to consider the other person. Bob’s gain did not have to include an unnecessary penalty for Andrew.

We explored options and agreed that God would be pleased if there was an honorable communication to Andrew of Bob’s intended offer. This would allow Andrew, if he wished, to make a counter offer to Joe to keep him. It would allow the three of them to negotiate a transition so that Joe could finish projects for Andrew and not embarrass him to his clients. It would allow Andrew time to go to market and seek a replacement. It would allow a healthy respect to be established between Bob and Andrew as Christian brothers who were also competitors in the market.

The coffee over, it was time for action.

Bob advised Joe what he was intending to do. Joe, to his credit, sought permission to speak with Andrew first and communicate all the options from Bob. Joe did this, and was released by Andrew to transit across with some finishing time for some projects. Bob would get more and more of Joe’s time as those projects were completed. Joe now works for Bob.

At a later meeting between Andrew and Bob, they could look each other in the eye. Andrew indicated he had learned something that day of a different way to do business and confessed quietly that some months before he had made an approach to one of Bob’s team. That person had declined to come, and Andrew suspected he now knew why.

What if we extended this approach to non-believers?

The market has existed since earliest times when two goods were exchanged for mutual benefit. Sin has brought profound distortions, but Christ in us can begin to redeem the marketplace to that which God intended.

Martien Kelderman is Director of the School of Contemporary Christian Studies at the Bible College of New Zealand, Auckland. This is an edited version of an article appearing in OnWatch bulletin 12, 2006.

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Soundings is a publication of the Centre for Christian Ethics, edited by Rod Benson. Soundings welcomes submissions of up to 1000 words that seek to facilitate debate and explore issues of religion, ethics and public policy in Australia and internationally. Previous columns give a good indication of the topical range and tone for acceptable essays. Columns may be quoted or republished in full, with attribution to the author of the column, Soundings, and the Centre for Christian Ethics, Morling College, Sydney Australia. Views expressed in Soundings articles are not necessarily those of the Centre for Christian Ethics, Morling College or the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT.

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