So says Southwest Airlines, and so said Chris Seiple in his February address, "Bring It," at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE). IGE is one of those hot spots insomniac undergrads (and some doctoral students) lay awake dreaming about working for. And that's no small wonder, judging by how Seiple brought it in this address to the United States Naval Academy.
His message is this: "As you engage globally, the in-broken Kingdom of God resides in you through Jesus. And if you live His commands, you will bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He will build it." Three simple points follow.
Point number one: Engage the world because you have been changed.
Not long ago the chaplain at my university sponsored a discussion on Barbara Brown Taylor's Altar in the World. It stirred up some controversy, not least in a room of the dominantly Protestant for its seeming deferral of world changing theology. Over and over Taylor hinted, sometimes outright stated, that the only thing in this life we can really change, the only evil we can truly overcome, are those things within. Culture changing academics and world-weary wonks squirmed at this easy genuflection to the external status quo. Any Calvinist will tell you evil lies within, but surely that confession does not absolve us of righting injustice, of reforming social architecture. Righting evil within is not always necessary for righting evil without. Sometimes bad people do good things. Call that an accident. Call it grace.
Seiple's can-do spirit needles that awkward dichotomy. Taylor is probably right that our greatest battles, our hardest tests, are about right orientation, about the worship of God, and the denial of self. Only out of that change, only out of lived testimony, can the audacity of justice in the face of injustice be pursued. Who can preach, after all, that society must be compassionate, until we have experienced grace ourselves? How can we evangelize culture until our hearts have been evangelized? If there's a harder lesson for a young person to learn, I don't know it: if you've got something to prove, stay home.
Point two: walk in others' shoes as he first walked in ours. The denial of self renders relationship possible, subverting how we need to be met, how we need to be understood, and empathetically imagining and engaging where others are. Maybe others are in a bad place. Maybe they're wrong. Maybe they are lepers and prostitutes, libertarians or lefties, where conversation feels soiling, and it can only begin through denial.
That's where Seiple says point three bleeds through: bring the kingdom of God as his ambassadors of reconciliation. But there's no skipping steps, no cheating ahead. And most of us, if I am any example, don't get far past that first point.
To be a better leader, says Seiple, be a better Christian. To change the world, be changed yourself. I've stumbled around points one through three most of my life, and I don't think there is anything straight forward about that. The hardest challenge of our lives doesn't stare at us from a globe away, from a degree too far, or from beyond a powerful promotion, but nestles itself right at home within.
So grab your bag. It's on.