Have you noticed how much measuring goes on at your work? Your achievements are measured formally and informally on a constant basis. Numbers are usually the tools for assessment. How many patients did you see? How many good grades did your students achieve? How many billable hours did you work? How many clients did you contact? How many words did you write? How many targets did you reach? How many heating systems did you fix? This is what we call the market and it is driven by a desire to make a profit, even in the non-profit sector, where market thinking is increasingly taking over.
There is another market which attempts to operate outside of the law, which gets labeled ‘the black market’ and it has other rules entirely – although the profit one remains.
I want to draw your attention to a third one in between. A grey market in which other forces surface and in which we all deal.
For here we measure, with but other criteria. Every day at work you measure those you meet by how they look, they sound, they smell, they ‘feel’, they ‘taste’. Here, height, weight, clothes, image and colours, rather than numbers rule.
It is in this grey market that a billion transactions take place every second. Opinions are formed, conclusions reached, hidden deals are struck. Gossip fuels trade-offs while rumour creates image.
We humans are immeasurably complex characters, living and longing in such markets, wanting to succeed as you do in your numbers market – the outcome’s being defined in non-numeric terms.
It is this grey market, I suggest, the market of the soul or heart, which actually drives every other one. For it is here where hopes, dreams, ambitions, self-worth and success are born, live or die. It is in this market where the Master Consultant Himself applies his wisdom in the full knowledge that everything will find its value under this roof.
If you want to measure our progress numerically, we are taking a fifteenth look at the ‘what do you want?’ question in the fourth gospel. The Consultant, with eleven male followers and several key female ones, is on his way from his last meal to his final eighteen hours and he has a number of points to make.
He speaks into the grey market. Stay numeric for a moment. We are in the 25th verse of the 15th chapter (for those of you who like fives). He makes a statement full of pathos ‘they hated me without reason’. There, in one phrase, is the biggest single flaw in the grey market. It is to use illegitimate criteria to reach an extreme conclusion. We call it prejudice and it often has an ‘ism’ in its name. Racism, sexism, ageism – the list is endless. It is the toxic currency of the grey market and services countless transactions. When you judge me or I judge you – not according to our outcomes or our agreed professional criteria – but according to our prejudices, we are on the road to hatred without reason.
Make no mistake. This is also contained in the word ‘atheism’. This is not some morally neutral, balanced, rational position as it claims, but a prejudice against the very existence of God. If it was so blatantly obvious that you could measure God out of your equations, you would never find a believing academic, a faithful scientist, or a worshipping mathematician – but you do. In the numeric market, God could take such bias to an industrial tribunal with a case for unprofessional prejudice on the basis that he is being discriminated against simply because he doesn’t look, feel, taste, smell or sound how we want.There is no reason to hate Jesus nor his Father and that is spelled out on the walk from the last meal.
Full of the language of love, laced with invitations to stay connected to love, enriched by his promise to lay down his life for his friends, his desire for nothing but your full joy and complete delight in your life. Lavished with counsel on how to really produce great outcomes in your life, nourished by the internal flow of the Spirit of God, constantly connecting you to the central vine where strength and growth are manufactured. It is an invitation based on acceptance, non-judgment and devoid of prejudice. Why hate that?
There is a tribunal – a panel of three consisting of a Father who loves so much, a Son who lays down his own life and a Spirit who nourishes. The rules of this Holy ‘grey’ market are hospitable. They involve staying connected, doing as you are counseled, letting him choose you as a friend (by the way there are rules in any market).
The strange fact is that rather than accept these terms, many would choose to persecute, to refuse, to reject and to resort to hatred – thinking they have a reason – but without one – it’s prejudice from top to bottom.
Please don’t think this has nothing to do with your week, your team meetings, your deals, your contracts or your daily tasks – it fuels every fire that burns, feeds every fruit that produces and finances every framework within which you operate.
Let none of us dare to say we are prejudice-free – that would be extreme foolishness, but remaining connected to the vine will produce fruit which, when under pressure, will not yield bitter vinegar but vintage wine. Your choice.
The bottom line in this market is -‘what do you want – love or hatred’?
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
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