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Social Relationships
Texts: 1 Peter 2:13-23; 1 Peter 3:1-7; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16; Galatians 3:27, 28; Acts 5:27-32; Leviticus 19:18
April 22, 2017

United Airlines demonstrated last week how not to treat passengers. Police violently removed a doctor from Flight 3411 to make room for a company staffer. Videos of the bloodied, screaming man and the Twitter hashtag #NeverFlyUnited went viral. The American College of Emergency Physicians tweeted: “When you injure a doctor on a plane, @United, do you still ask ‘Is there a doctor on the plane?’ ”

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” responded United CEO Oscar Munoz. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”

According to Hofstra University professor Kara Alaimo, here’s the statement United should have posted: “All of us at United were horrified by what happened last night. We have reached out to the passenger to apologize, offer assistance and make amends. Nothing is more important to United than the safety of our passengers. This incident doesn’t reflect our values and we’re going to make sure it never happens again.”

Attorneys, worried about admitting liability, probably drafted the company’s non-apology. “That's incredibly short-sighted,” says Alaimo. “It’s clear to any reasonable person that what happened to this passenger was very wrong. By not fully apologizing, United suggests that it might believe otherwise. For anyone considering flying United, that’s a scary possibility.”

So, what should a company do when it messes up? “The answer is simple,” continues Alaimo. “First, apologize immediately. Second, overreact to demonstrate that what happened doesn’t reflect the company’s values and how it conducts its business. In this case, United should offer full coverage of his medical expenses and free first-class flights for life for his entire family.” Alaimo teaches her crisis communication students that in such situations, they should think of an appropriate response and then “add a zero.” [1]

In business and in life, it’s critical to assess how we treat people. This week’s lesson looks at Peter’s counsel on how we should conduct our social relationships: show respect to everyone, honor authorities, and reflect God’s character by doing good to others. The lessons also give some historical background to help understand the passages regarding slavery and seemingly archaic views of marriage.

Peter’s guidelines reflect much of what we find in Paul’s writings when it comes to social interactions. Rather than advocating revolutionary social upheaval, Peter, Paul, and Jesus all recommend change through “the leavening influence of godly people in society.” The bottom line for Peter is his admonition in 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all things have fervent love for one another.” That’s Peter’s way of saying, “Consider how to treat people well, then add a zero.”

~ cb

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-11/united-airlines-shows-what-not-to-do-after-a-customer-is-battered