A White House case study on mercy in the workplace

the most excellent way Mar 04, 2024

I will show you the most excellent way…love…keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:5)

Tim Goeglein collapsed in his White House office. His secret life of plagiarism had been found out and the guilt and shame were literally crippling.

A couple days after his resignation, Goeglein received a call. His former boss, President George W. Bush, wanted to see him.

Terrified, Goeglein entered the Oval Office, looked President Bush in the eye, and began his groveling apology: “Sir, I owe you…” 

But the President wouldn’t let Goeglein finish his apology. “You’re forgiven,” Bush said.

Goeglein was certain he misunderstood what the President said, so he attempted to apologize twice more until Bush said, “You know, Tim, grace and mercy are real. I have known grace and mercy in my own life and you're forgiven. We can talk about all of that [referring to Goeglein’s plagiarism] or we can talk about the last eight years.”

Throughout this series, we’ve been studying what Paul called “the most excellent way” to live and work, chronicled in the famous “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13. Today, we conclude with a look at Paul’s words that love “keeps no record of wrongs,” a truth beautifully exemplified by President Bush.

But the ultimate example of course—and the ultimate motivation for us to keep “no record of wrongs”—is the love God has shown us by removing our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:11-12).

Now, keeping “no record of wrongs” is not the same as “forgive and forget.” For starters, it’s impossible to literally forget many sins committed against us. It’s also unwise. If you’re a principal of a school and a teacher is accused of sexual abuse, you’re called to forgive them, but it would be the height of folly to allow that teacher to come back to work the next day.

So what does it look like to keep “no record of wrongs” at work? At a minimum, it looks like extending forgiveness to the wrongdoer. But I think Christ’s example leads us to do more than that. I think it calls us to pray for the wrongdoer and their flourishing, to refuse to consider past wrongdoings when evaluating someone’s current performance, and to avoid sharing details of a co-worker’s sins and shortcomings with those who don’t truly need to know.

Does it sound impossible to live and work in this loving way? It is apart from Christ in us. May we abide in him daily so that we’re so filled up with a sense of his love for us that we can’t help but extend the overflow of that love to those we work with. For this is “the most excellent way.”


P.S. If you want to go deeper on what true biblical forgiveness looks like at work, listen to Tim Keller and I discuss that topic here.


50% Complete

Join 100,000+ Christians who receive my weekly devotional every Monday morning!