Monday, April 23, 2012

Masterful Living

by Kevin Mannoia

On first impression, the title has the vernacular of martial arts or some new age ideology, but the idea is not congruent with the person who lent it to me. Masterful Living, as it turns out, is simply about living full of God as our Master. It sounds simple, but this book is best read slowly for deep and investigative self-reflection. You may want to mark some chapters as favourites for ongoing reference according to what God is doing in your life.

Here are my favourite chapters.

[Chapter 2] Responsible engagement

This is an interesting chapter that talks about social engagement as a result of a transformed character.  While an overemphasis on character transformation can cause a believer to be isolated and alienated from those outside his/her holy fortress [my expression], a sense of responsible engagement that is driven by character transformation causes us to spring into action ‘for engaging the hurt, the broken, the disenfranchised in order to make a difference here and now.’
Located at the end of this chapter:
Theological idea to meditate on: Incarnation of God in Jesus
Danger to Avoid: Social Gospel/activism alone

[Chapter 3] Healthy relationships

Masterful Living postulates that when we are truly living in the Spirit of God, we will begin to understand the true nature of unity, and healthy relationships become the natural outcome. Such relationships are rooted in unity with God, and allow for differences in personality, ability, functions, role, circumstances, etc. These are very liberating relationships that have some qualities of uniformity and unanimity.  Unfortunately, because ‘abuses of power, manipulation, dysfunctional relationships...and coercion' some 'may impose uniformity or unanimity where unity does not exist’.

Mannoia exerts that God does not dichotomize His love but offers a universal love for all mankind that is vulnerable to rejection, criticism and hurt.  He cannot be one thing to those who love Him, and another to those who reject Him. God is faithful to His nature, and He cannot deny who He is. With God as our Master, we’ll find it hard not to be the same.  While this is not to say that we should be pushovers for bullies, what it means is that increasingly, it’ll be hard to operate love with a bias.  Surely, it's easy to treat those who are amiable towards us with a Type A attitude, and guard ourselves with a Type B behaviour towards the bull-dozers.  But mastered by God's love, it'll be hard to withhold kindness and mercy even to the bulldozers. While I’m not saying that one should invite a troublesome person to lunch with open arms or to continue to be manipulated, being consistently gracious is a happier way to live.  And life is more relaxed when you have only one side to show, whether it's valued or not.
Located at the end of this chapter:
Theological idea to meditate on: The kingdom principle of mutuality
Danger to Avoid: Group relativism

[Chapter 7] Servant Leadership

Masterful Living dispels all notions that servant leadership is a leadership model, or a smart way to get people on your side by mimicking servanthood.  Rather, it postulates that ‘you may be an autocratic leader, or a collaborative leader, or a directing leader, or a theory X leader – and still be a servant leader. The real issue is not the style  but the inner condition of your life and how that condition is reflected in whatever style of leadership you apply.’

My best part is where it talks about the servant/master construct: that we reflect the nature and priorities of who our master is.  Money, self, position, power, others [ie other people] or God can be our master, and we will invariably reflect the one who masters us. Serving money, for example, will bring a different alignment of all the other priorities in our lives eg relationship with others and God. Naturally, one who is mastered by money will place position, power and self above all else to succeed.  This makes it really very telling who anyone’s master is.

Don't we often allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by what a person claims to be, and the tell-tale signs we so compassionately want to ignore.

Located at the end of this chapter:
Theological idea to meditate on: The servant mind of Christ
Danger to Avoid: Style of leadership only

Every chapter ends with a Scripture reference, a theological idea to meditate on, a danger to avoid, questions to ask yourself, and a prayer.  I have to say that the questions and prayers are not the usual run-of-the-mill ho-hums at the end of a chapter and that makes this book good for private journalling to develop your thoughts, monitor your commitments [after all, every prayer is really a commitment] and note the changes God will bring about.

Where you can get it: Bookstore at Trinity @ PL, tel 6749-9639