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Safety and Love in Romans
At a certain moment in my industrial career, it became clear that we were having too many accidents in our factories. We had more than fifty locations throughout Europe, ranging from the very large to the quite small, but a common feature was the time lost to minor injuries: slips, trips, falls, sprains, little cuts and such like. We did have the occasional serious accident but thankfully they were very rare. Anyway, it was time to do something about it and the subject rose to the top of our agenda. Literally! Every formal meeting held in the company had “Safety” as the first item for discussion. Whether at parent board level in Tokyo or at a small management meeting in Milton Keynes this was true throughout. Our intent was to change the culture of the organisation. People had become inured to these accidents considering them simply as part of our way of life. Of course we were investing in: better handling equipment, signs, alarms and safety devices but by far the most important change was this emphasis on culture. As a European board member whenever I visited a plant, wherever it was in the world, I would take half an hour out from my business there to formally audit an aspect of the operation and then I would write a report of my findings to the managing director of that unit. Now note that we did not stop trying to produce good products, to service our customers nor frankly to make as much money as possible but nothing was to be allowed to compromise safety. Our first thought was to be “Is what we are about to do safe?”
I hope you can sense the parallel with what Paul is telling us in his letter to the Romans. He is saying that our first thought, top of our agenda, should be to love one another. Of course, we are not to commit murder, adultery, theft (in the same way as we should not use acid without gloves or goggle, or lift heavy objects unaided) but these rules as it were are all summed up together by the predominant idea of love. “Love,” says Paul “does no wrong to a neighbour.” If our first question were always “Is what we are about to do loving?” then we would not be angry or jealous or vengeful. “Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.”
Notice too how Paul reminds his readers of what was then thought to be the imminent arrival, the second coming of Jesus Christ. Not only should love be top of our agenda and inform our thoughts, words and deeds but “the day is near, now is the moment to wake from sleep.”
I was never so naďve to imagine that I saw the factories as they had been the day before. Some special efforts were made “Steve is coming from head office, he will inspect us so we better have a clean up.” But, you know, that hardly mattered, the message was reinforced; the culture strengthened and in a three to four year period the incidence of accidents steadily fell until finally we had by far the lowest rate of any comparable industry and we became the benchmark for others to follow.
Imagine then how the world would be, how Luton would be, how Streatley would be if our first thought, the litmus test of what we do next was “Is this loving?” or to put it another way if Jesus came through the door now would he be happy with what I was doing, saying or thinking? How different life would be!
As Paul says” Owe no one anything, except to love one another”