June 23, 2014

Dateline Moscow

The question startled me. “Why wasn’t Jesus able to save Satan?” A friend asked it during a brisk morning walk. The memory that flashed into my mind surprised me even more. I remembered Kyle.

Kyle* joined my newspaper team with a top-notch résumé and excellent job references. He quickly proved to be hardworking, deadline-oriented, and a talented writer. He was also proud. As the months passed, a small entourage of newsroom journalists formed around Kyle, people whom he offered extra help in shaping and writing stories, sometimes independently of our usual work routine.

Kyle also gradually revealed a tougher side, harshly criticizing, during staff meetings, coworkers who were not in his inner circle. I sought to maintain peace.

On several occasions Kyle erupted in rage at a colleague whose slowness was putting our deadline at risk. Again, I sought to make peace.

Toward me, Kyle showed the utmost respect. Indeed, when I learned that he hadn’t invited me to an upcoming weekend gathering at his apartment, he immediately apologized, saying, “I didn’t think that you would be able to attend, so I didn’t invite you. But if you can come . . .” I quickly assured Kyle that he had nothing to worry about.

But the atmosphere of the newsroom darkened as Kyle’s small entourage displayed increasingly open dissatisfaction toward my leadership. One member, a senior journalist named Bill, started challenging my decisions privately. When I invited an award-winning reporter from Paris to share with our staff how they could improve as journalists, Bill crossly told me that I should have conducted the presentation myself, and that if I felt that I lacked the competence to do so, I should have asked Kyle to lead the event.

Office tensions continued to grow as small acts of insubordination disrupted the normal workflow. I began to suspect that Kyle was behind the trouble.

Still, every time discord surfaced, I sought, and seemed to reestablish, peace with Kyle and the others. I determined to forgive and forget. After all, God had forgiven me of much; how could I do less?

Then a reporter filed a short story in direct contradiction to my instructions to write a long, front-page story. When I spoke with the reporter, I learned that Kyle had unilaterally changed the assignment. I asked Kyle what was going on. He shrugged.

I turned to my boss for advice, and learned that the problem was worse than I thought. Kyle had also visited my boss a few days earlier and demanded my dismissal. “You have no choice,” my boss told me. “It’s you or him. You decide.”

I prayed for wisdom. I didn’t want to lose Kyle. He was an asset to the newspaper. More important, I genuinely loved him as a coworker and a child of God. But I also realized that Kyle was proud and rebellious, and his actions were tearing apart the newsroom. One of us had to go.

I invited Kyle to my office. “Kyle,” I said, “I think the time has come for us to part ways.”

Kyle looked at me blankly. “What? What are you saying?”

“I think the time has come for us to part ways.”

“Are you firing me?” he said, his eyes narrowing. “You can’t fire me.”

“I’m only saying that I think the time has come for us to part ways,” I said again. I outlined the compensation package that he would receive.

As reality sank in, Kyle’s face hardened. He spewed out threats. “You’ll be sorry,” he said, stalking out of my office. I never saw Kyle again.

So why wasn’t Jesus able to save Satan?

“I believe Jesus wanted to save Satan,” I told my friend during our morning walk. “Jesus did everything possible to save him. But He was left with no choice. One of them had to go.”

* Names have been changed.