“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” – Luke 13:3
In his book, High Output Management, Andy Grove the former CEO of Intel famously wrote that in this world of technological advancement and information revolution, “There are two options: adapt or die”
Many Silicon Valley scholars and historians consider Andy Grove’s impact to be likened to that of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. His quote was published in 1983, but I’m sure today’s businesses, nonprofits, and churches can hear its relevance as we adapt to a post-pandemic (or more accurately ongoing pandemic) existence.
Grove’s basic idea is that there are “strategic inflection points,” moments where the entire framework in which business has been conducted is transformed. Companies must transform themselves or get left in the dust. The arrival of superstores, the introduction of the home PC, the accessibility of the internet; all are examples of strategic inflection points. In each case, those companies that recognized the changes and adjusted to them flourished, while those that didn’t floundered.
When I first read that quote, I left it in the realm business. It is addressing what a company needs to do in order to succeed. And the death it spoke of meant going out of business.
But that I learned that Andy Grove was more than Silicon Valley superstar.
Grove was born as András Gróf to a middle-class Jewish family in Hungary. At the age of four he nearly died from scarlet fever which left him with partial hearing loss. At age eight, the Nazis occupied Hungary and deported Jews by the thousands to concentration camps. To avoid being arrested, Andras and his mother hid with friends under fake identities. When he was 20, a revolution in Hungary erupted and he fled the country. Completely broke and barely able to speak English, he eventually made his way to the United States. Grove summarized his first twenty years of life in his memoirs writing,
“By the time I was twenty, I had lived through a Hungarian Fascist dictatorship, German military occupation, the Nazis’ “Final Solution,” the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army, a variety of repressive Communist regimes, and a popular uprising that was put down at gunpoint…[where] many were killed; countless others were interned. Some two hundred thousand Hungarians escaped to the West. I was one of them.”
Knowing the context makes, “Adapt or die”, take on a different and deeper meaning.
At first glance, it’s easy to be taken aback by Jesus’ words, “Repent or perish.”
Yet it is important to remember his context. At the beginning of Luke 13 the crowd is speaking of Jews who were killed by the Roman authorities (specifically Pontius Pilate). Rome appeared to hold the power of life or death over the Jews. There seemed to be only a handful of options:
- Fight Rome
- Collude with Rome
- Acquiesce externally and resent internally
Different religious groups took these paths and each of these paths leads away from God’s heart and towards a death of spirit and identity as a child of God. Jesus is saying to his hearers, there is a different path that calls out to you, a path engagement that is beyond “fight or flight.” Jesus is calling his community to see his way as a path that leads to life for all other ways lead to shriveled heart and shortsighted mind. Jesus is saying to them, you will need to change and choose a way that is different than what you see in the world. Following Christ will require us to adapt our way of life but this is the way that leads to life.