Test of Character
Aug 25, 2015
Where does new culture come from? How is it planted and propagated? This is not an esoteric question – we as humans are actually dealing with it all the time. For conscientious parents, how to raise their kids and what those kids are learning is a practical day-to-day matter. Every workplace has its own beliefs and practices.
If you are intent on launching Business As Mission, then you already see the importance of creating value, of making a positive contribution to individuals and to society. What do you have to offer – and how did it come to you?
Let’s transport the culture question back to Abram’s time. The world was being re-populated. God’s promise indicates he was intent on more than just progeny. He wanted lines of descendants of blessing. How? Fortunately for us, at the end of Genesis chapter fourteen, we get some clues.
To set the scene, let’s return to the account of Abram’s victorious return from his sudden military campaign. He arrived in the King’s Valley and encounters two very different kings. How Abram responds to these figures reveals a leader with growing convictions and character.
The first interaction is with Melchizedek, king of Salem, who came to bless Abram in the name of God (see last week’s blog). Abram apparently recognizes this priest as a direct representative of the God he is following, because he promptly gives a 10% offering to Melchizedek from the spoils of battle. This is a continuation of Abram’s pattern of worshipping God – and a wonderful spontaneous expression of his gratitude for protection and victory.
During the blessing, Abram learns a new name for God: “God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth”. He immediately uses this new name in interaction with the other king. Bera, king of Sodom, starts the conversation with, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” While this sounds equitable, there may be an agenda lurking.
Sodom, as we were told in the last chapter, was “wicked exceedingly”. Abram had just spent weeks in the company of a number of liberated citizens from that town. Surely on the trail and in the overnight camps the real nature of those folks would have surfaced. It seems hard to imagine that the leader of the town was significantly different.
My thought is that Abram had good reason to question the motives and intent of the king of Sodom. In business parlance, he did not want to partner or network with this guy.
Abram’s response is very strong: “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’”
Abram goes on to say, I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”
These three brothers are neighbors of Abram and they had joined the posse to recover Lot. Abram clearly views them as allies and wants them to be rewarded.
Abram is not yet fully formed – indeed, he is not yet called “Abraham”. But this chapter gives us an inner glimpse of the transformation that is underway. Highlights:
Act promptly on everything you know about God
Steer clear of entrusting yourself to people of questionable character
Once you are convinced of something, live it out consistently.
Take care of your team and your friends
Culture is not a matter of concept. It is about practice. It exists and is transmitted from life to life. Abram was not chosen to be a passive conduit of a message. He was engaged to be a transformed vessel of a way to live.