I have chosen as my text, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Moffatt's Translation: "Love is very patient, very kind. Love knows no jealousy; love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful; love is never glad when others go wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always Patient.'' *
A few years ago in General Conference worship, someone asked the question "If the golden rule is so simple, why is it sometimes so difficult to get along with some of the brethren?"
I thought about this for a long time, and did some personal research to find the answer. I came to the conclusion that we sometimes do not get along with others because of a lack of patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, and in general, because of a lack of Christian maturity, resulting in a lack of Christian love and an understanding of the other person's problems.
You will recall that Peter Marshall was chaplain of the United States Senate for some time before his death. In one of his prayers in the Senate on June 26, 1947, he expressed this thought: "Our Father, we are beginning to understand at last that the things that are wrong with our world are the sum-total of all the things that are wrong with us as individuals."
If we would paraphrase this prayer for our benefit, it could read, "Our Father, we are beginning to understand at last that the things that are wrong with our denomination are the sum-total of all the things that are wrong with us as individuals."
Thus, if we have a desire to improve the denomination, an institution, or a church, we should first improve ourselves.
A few years ago, while I was business manager and treasurer of the Washington Missionary College, I attended some courses in college management at the University of Omaha, Nebraska. I was greatly impressed by what was said by an elderly guest instructor. This man was the comptroller of the University of Illinois, and had many years of experience to support his counsel.
As he spoke to the college presidents and business managers in attendance, he emphasized the concept of a total program of operation. He said some college administrators had made the mistake of putting the academic staff on a pedestal while downgrading the nonacademic staff. In the speaker's opinion this was a mistake, because both groups are vitally essential in the total operation of an educational institution. This instructor said the degree of importance of one group over the other was hard to define.
To illustrate his point, he told of an arrangement his college made with the local painters' union. The college maintenance personnel were nonunion, so they worked out a peaceable settlement with the union that they would paint all walls and the union painters would paint all ceilings. This was a very satisfactory arrangement, and there was no difficulty until one day the college decided to paint the interior of a quonset hut. Then the two groups got into an argument on the question of where the walls ended and the ceiling began! Thus the speaker expressed his opinion that it Nvould be foolish to try to emphasize the importance of one group of employees over another.
Another piece of advice that impressed me greatly was given by this same instructor just before the termination of the course. In addressing the group he suggested, "When you men go back to your respective organizations be sure to make yourselves a part of the answer to the problem instead of a part of the problem."
The thought came to me that probably no administrator in the audience ever thought of himself as being a part of a problem. My observation led me to believe that most administrators always think they are part of the answer to the problem. But if we are honest with ourselves we might have to admit that on occasions we are part of the problem.
I once heard a statement made to this effect: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." In checking this quotation I found it had been quoted incorrectly. It really reads: "Power tends to corrupt; and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Personally, I feel that any administrator in our denomination should do all in his power to be humble and sincere and never become corrupt; but to strive to become a true laborer "together with God."
I have heard this expression, "laborers together with God," used on many occasions, but did not fully understand it until I consulted the Spirit of Prophecy writings, and then I found a statement that was really challenging because it set forth the prerequisites for becoming a laborer together with God. In fact, I have taken the liberty of calling this the L.T.G. degree.
As you know, you may fulfill certain specifications and obtain a Ph.D., M.D., R.N., or an M.S: and it is only after you have fulfilled the specifications that you are entitled to the degree. In my opinion, it is the same with the L.T.G.—Laborers Together With God—degree. In Christ's Object Lessons, page 402, Ellen G. White specifically sets forth the essentials for obtaining an L.T.G. degree. The quotation starts with the word "only," and this word is repeated for emphasis: "Only when selfishness is dead, when strife for supremacy is banished, when gratitude fills the heart, and love makes fragrant the life—it is only then that Christ is abiding in the soul, and we are recognized as laborers together with God." When we apply these stipulations to our lives we feel inadequate.
A few years ago I was asked to give a talk to the student body at Shenandoah Valley Academy in Virginia. Naturally, I was interested in promoting the concept of total Christian maturity. I used the text of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 from 1VIoffatt's translation. This, in my opinion, is an analysis that each one of us can make in our lives to see how close we as individuals approach Christian maturity. As you know, Moffatt uses the word love, and in each place where this word is used we may correctly insert the name of Jesus.