Developing a System to Accomplish our Greatest Purposes in Life 

Lessons from Covid1-19 #13

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it : Love your neighbour as yourself.” Matt 22:37-40

Jesus, as a partner in the triune relationship of the Trinity, recognized the mystery and essential nature of our individual and collective needs and desires. So although the physical representation of the church as a body of people was described in terms of the scientific knowledge of the time, it is applicable today for:

“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities...have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made , so that people are without excuse.”  Romans 1:20

This verse hints at individual responsibility and agency (ability to act and have impact on events) within the larger social framework of institutions, bureaucracies, and governments. This will be a key feature of the system redesign that was presented by Paul to the Corinthians on how they needed to tidy up interpersonal problems in their society and budding church.

When Paul described the church as a group of interdependent body parts that were all essential to a healthy whole, he spoke of interconnections in terms of other known anatomical structures of the day.  He described the result of disconnection with Jesus, the head of the church, as occurring when:

“They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” (Colossians 2:19)

Growth and maturity are obtained as:

“...we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head....From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15). 

The ligaments and sinews recognized then as anatomical structures connecting, supporting and protecting the body organs, are today  represented in the organizational model by the myriad internal regulating genetic, hormonal, and structural elements in the human body that are prone to injury, disease, and aging . 

The study of the co-ordinated activities of these systems has resulted in the emergence and growth of a host of medical and surgical specialties, and cross-system disciplines dealing with diseases and other influences on the multiple body organ systems. 

In the same way that the human body was known then as a set of interrelated and connected members, so today health systems and other organizations that have implications for human and environmental health are viewable through a similar lens of functioning or malfunctioning interdependence.

Another feature of the early church organization was that each part or member was to have concern for the others, and that doing so would result in the betterment of all.  Demonstrating concern for others who were  not part of one's own group or tribe was foundational to New Testament teaching. 

Jesus went even further in the parable of the Good Samaritan to identify our neighbour as someone to love as ourselves even if that person  was someone for whom we may have even dislike or disdain. This needed to be a commandment for us to counterbalance our need to “look after number one.” This was for self-preservation, and to enable us to use personal well-being as a strong platform from which to serve others and fulfill God's purposes for us individually and for the benefit of others.

In addition to the natural tendency of a body to have concern for its components, Paul added alongside the model form of church organization, a list of spiritual gifts and talents implanted in every person who was a member of the church body. The church was to provide the environment for its members to discover and develop their spiritual gifting and natural talents, as the organizational way that God would help all his created humans grow throughout their lives. 

This organizational model demonstrates the organizational structure that best aligns both individual growth and corporate growth. Paul presented our talents and spiritual gifts as the spiritual ligament and sinew that binds together and accomplishes great things. Even in Paul's time, despite the hope, promise, and opportunity of good things, there was always the need for correction, still needed today to manage difficulties with cooperation among and within organizations today.

To meet the need for correction and encouragement, the spiritual gift of exhortation was bestowed upon some to persistently express hope, be  patient in seasons of stress, and be steadily committed to prayer. 

Another spiritual gift, the gift of hospitality implied the desire to help others, often strangers, by inviting them in and serving them without expectation of financial gain. The word hospital originates from earlier root words for hosting guests and strangers, and caring for patients, or those who suffer. Though early medical care was more primitive, hospitals still answered these core needs. 

Now that hospital care is technically advanced during Covid-19, hospital workers are still being recognized as committed front-liners, for their dedication to others while accepting personal risk of harm.

This series has been a working hypothesis for an improved health system organizational structure. A working hypothesis is proposed as a theory  that is believed to have enough merit to be tested practically. Part of the hypothesis is that although systems are imperfect and open to misuse, the NT church offers an foundational  organizational structure that promotes   kindness and goodness, or an example of a structure that enhances “doing well by doing good.” 

Viewed from my own involvement in healthcare for half a century, it can also be looked at from the point of view of participant observation(PO). PO is a means of study used by cultural anthropologists, who enter into a culture or organization as an active and observing participant, recognizing that we are all prone to bias, or looking at things from our own point of view. 

PO is a process we are all involved in, formally or otherwise, as we proceed on our own journeys through life.Covid-19 has just happened to bring so many competing needs and issues together at the same time, that finding a solid foundation from which to observe, act and react may be more appealing now than during times of greater stability and predictability.

Next we will look some events of organizational development in recent centuries that have resulted in our current situation. They will be interpreted as constructive, destructive or mixed, and so providing suggestions for dealing with the world of Covid -19.

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