Ecology and Leadership

This week, I spoke to an old high school friend who is interested in ecology. This friend has been critical in the past of my tendency to be interested in strictly religious and philosophical matters, forgetting the practical importance of such urgent matters as caring for our environment. My friend knows that I accept this criticism as valid. Eventually, it is my plan to write a chapter in a book I’m working on dealing specifically with the details of a Christian response to the problems raised by environmental degradation. It is an important topic that deserves all of our attention.

As we talked, I made a comment that exemplifies what I truly believe. It is difficult to write about issues like global warming because it is very difficult to understand the science and to discriminate between what I would call “politically and economically motivated science,” left and right, and the actual relevant facts.

Nevertheless, I don’t think the science involved fundamentally matters a whole lot in the end. Why do I say this? I say this because it seems to me that Christians are required to carefully use the precious resources of our planet so that they may be available for future generations. Christians are called to be stewards of the world God has entrusted to our care and servants not just of ourselves and our own selfish desires and needs, but also servants of generations to come.

It doesn’t take a lot of investigation or analysis to know that our culture is attached to the production and consumption of things. Some of these things are material, and others are what we might call experiences. Yet, in some way, all of this gathering of things and experiences gets in the way of life, relationships with other people, family, and friendships. The search for affluence and personal pleasure in the form of consuming things and experiences sits at the root of much of the dysfunction of our society—and I think of a good bit of our neurotic tendencies.

A second theme of recent blogs is our tendency to attempt to achieve (and permit to be achieved by others) a kind of leadership that focuses on power and not on servanthood. We desperately need servant leadership in government, business, nonprofit organizations, churches, and other institutions. The single, most important black cause of our cultural decline is the lack of true servant leadership that identifies problems and undertakes the difficult task of solving them in an honest and straightforward way.

To respond to my dear friend’s concern, this week, I decided to republish one chapter of a little book I published some years ago. In Centered, Living/Centered Leading: the Way of Light and Love, I undertook a Christian paraphrase of the Chinese Tao Te Ching, a marvelous book that has meant much to me over the years.  [1] In this book, I rephrased the Tao Te Ching on the left side of each two pages and did a small Christian reflection based upon a Bible verse on the right side.  The purpose was to illustrate just how close the ethics and leadership of Christianity and the Tao Te Ching are. While I did have to make some changes to the Tao to reflect my Christian faith, the fact is most of the time, it was unnecessary.

This week, the blog is simply Chapter 27 of that book. I chose this passage because it gives a simple metaphor for the wise life as concerns ecological matters: “A skillful traveler leaves few marks on the path.” Those of us who want to be skillful stewards of the environment, need to constantly remind ourselves that we should not leave too many “marks on the world”. To be a good steward is to use resources wisely and conserve resources as much as possible.

Here is the Chapter from the book:

Chapter 27

A skillful traveler leaves few marks on the path.
A skillful orator wastes few words when speaking.
A skillful business person instinctively calculates profit.

A skillful sailor ties knots that do not unravel.

A skillful dancer has instinctive grace on the dance floor.
A skillful, prudent person follows the Way through life.

A wise person seeks the best for everyone,
rejecting no child of the One Who Is.
A wise person cherishes Creation,
seeking the best for the lowliest creature.

This means embracing Deep Light.

This means suffering with Deep Love.

Therefore, the wise person reaches out to the foolish; the good reaches out to the wicked.

Rescuing the foolish and the broken, the wise shepherd embodies the Word.

Cherishing all things, wise shepherds follow the Great Shepherd.

This is the dark, mysterious path of the Way.

So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though once we regarded Christ this way, we no longer do so. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . .(2 Corinthians 5:16–18 [NIV])

Nurture and Help Others Grow in Love

            We live in a wasteful society. Materially, this results in “garbage on the trail” of our lives. Mentally, we are surrounded by words, from talk radio, to television, to music, to media and information on the Internet. We have abundant possessions, perhaps too many. Much of what we see, hear, and possess keeps us from seeing what is really important. To be wise, we must remove the clutter from our lives.

            The wise person realizes that people are the most essential thing in life. Jesus is the one who “came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Saving people and assisting them in achieving a wise life are the most important things Christ-Followers can do. For Christ-Followers, reaching out to the suffering and lost in word and deed of mercy is central to the wise life.

Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son to suggest that God never abandons anyone, however far they have strayed (Luke 15:11–32). Lao Tzu says that the wise rescue the foolish and wandering. How would your priorities change if you took this seriously?

Copyright 2024, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] G. Christopher Scruggs, Centered, Living/Centered Leading: The Way of Light and Love Rev. Ed. (Permisio Por Favor/BookSurge, 2009, 2016). It is available on Amazon.