As a Management professor, my attention is caught whenever I see interfaces between Scriptural readings and the theory and practice of Management. It convinces me that the word of God is all-encompassing, providing guidance not only in spiritual matters but also in organizational life. Such is the case for the second reading in this Sunday’s lectionary. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote:
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (I Cor 1:10, 12-13, 17).
I can relate this to one of the managerial principles laid down in the classic 1916 book entitled, “Administration Industrielle et Generale,” which was written by Henri Fayol, a French engineer-turned-manager in a mining company. This principle, called “Unity of Direction,” states that organizational members who are bonded by the same objective should work together to pursue a common plan under the direction of one manager. While this seems to be based on common sense, we know from experience that many organizations, not only the church but also those in the fields of business, government, non-profits, professions, and the like, are operating with widespread violations of this principle. The results are obvious ─ narrowed perspectives, discord, politicking, horse-trading, grandstanding, lack of coordination, low productivity, and general ineffectiveness in attaining the common purpose and in serving the people they are mandated to serve.
It did not do the Corinthian church any good for its members to be more loyal to their respective leaders than they were to the higher purpose of serving God. In the same manner, citizens must be more loyal to the Constitution of the nation than they are to any elected or appointed official, and employees of private companies must be more loyal to the mission and vision of their firm than they are to anyone in the organizational hierarchy. If this is done, we will probably have better institutions and a more functional society.
In the spiritual sense, however, Christians should remember that genuine unity is founded in ultimate loyalty to the supreme authority, who is no other than our Lord Jesus Christ himself. In the first of the ten commandments, God made it clear, “I am the Lord your God ... you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3). What this means is that whatever and whomever we place above the Lord, even persons of authority, become gods to us and steal away from God the highest loyalty, honor, and obedience that are due only to him. To the Colossians, Paul wrote something related to this, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17), and to the Philippians, he said that in the name of Jesus, every knee should bow (Phil 2:10). God alone deserves our worship and highest praise.
In conclusion, it must also be realized that it would be ideal when the objectives pursued by our institutions and leaders are in line with the purposes of God in society and in our lives. In that case, there will be no dilemmas regarding loyalty and organizational unity. But what if conflicts between these two arise? Which one should prevail? In response, I recall this famous quote coming from President Manuel L. Quezon, “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.” Leveling that up, as Christians, may we make a stand: “Our loyalty to people and organizations ends where our loyalty to God begins.” Only then can there be genuine order in institutional and societal life.