“If you can understand grace from people, then you can understand the ultimate grace, that God sent his son to die for us,” said Mike Baird, the Premier of NSW, to about 150 business leaders in Sydney on Friday night.

The business dinner was the first event in the City to City Renewing My Workplace conference, which continued on Saturday.

Premier Baird went on to tell a story of one of the first times he saw grace in action, as a student at Regent College in Vancouver.

“There was a guy in the corner of the [class]room named Norm. He was Canadian, he had a long beard, down to his knees, colourful hat and clothes and he was incredibly painful. You know the people like that.”

At the end of the semester, Norm approached Mike and invited him to Christmas dinner.

“Norm was clearly of the understanding that I wanted to be anywhere but next to Norm. But he returned it with a hug and the most incredible Christmas I’ve ever had.” – Premier Mike Baird

“When we arrived at Norm’s place, a door opened up, and his wife was there. She gave me a hug, and in that moment I kind of melted. She said, ‘thank you so much for coming. Norm has been cooking for three days for you.’

“And then Norm comes around, with his beard, with flour in it, and he gave me a hug, and he said, ‘Mike, Merry Christmas, it’s so great for you to be here.’

“And at that moment I saw grace. Norm knew how I felt, and how I had treated him. Norm was clearly of the understanding that I wanted to be anywhere but next to Norm. But he returned it with a hug and the most incredible Christmas I’ve ever had.”

Premier Baird addressed the room, speaking explicitly about his time as a student at the evangelical Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and how it influenced his decision to go into politics.

NSW Premier Mike Baird addresses the crowd at the City to City Renewing My Workplace conference

NSW Premier Mike Baird addresses the crowd at the City to City Renewing My Workplace conference Tess Holgate

“I found myself [at Regent College] because I was living in the context of multiple lives. I was in banking in one life, and then I was in ministry in another life – in youth group and church. And there was not this integration. It tore me up; I wrestled with it for many many years.

“And then I heard about Regent. Non-denominational, and with so many different inputs. And they were talking about how you bring your faith and life together.

“…you have to be purposeful. It doesn’t mean you force what you believe on to anyone, but you shouldn’t be holding back.” – Premier Mike Baird

Convinced at that time that he was going to be an Anglican minister, Premier Baird decided to spend a couple of years at Regent, and then return to Sydney and spend a couple of years at Moore College (the Anglican training college for the Diocese of Sydney), and he said, “then whacko, I’m an Anglican minister.”

But at Regent, he looked at the foundation stone engraved with verses from Ephesians 4 – that God has equipped all of us in different ways, with different gifts and different purposes – and began to wonder how that applied to his own life.

After completing a course called ‘Christian Life’, which involved reflecting on his past and what had brought him to this point, he began to think more about how he could use all his gifts to serve God. And in scrawled handwriting on the bottom of an assignment, one of his lecturers wrote, “maybe in Aussie politics.”

“When one leads in righteousness, when he leads in the fear of the Lord, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning.”

“I had been running from that my entire life,” said Premier Baird, “[but] in that moment it came back to Colossians 3 – whatever you do, in word or deed do it all in the name of Jesus giving thanks to God to Father.

“I thought: well maybe, I do understand a bit about politics, maybe I could use the banking side in the context of actually helping the finances of the government in the economy side. Maybe that was the place.”

As he thought about going into politics, Premier Baird said he reflected on the words of David in Samuel.

“…we’re not going to back down from what we believe in and know is true.” – Premier Mike Baird

“When one leads in righteousness, when he leads in the fear of the Lord, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain, that brings grass from the earth.

“If you can do that, lead in the fear of the Lord, and try and reflect Christ in that leadership, that is going to be a light to the world,” said Premier Baird.

A full house at the business dinner for the City to City Renewing My workplace conference

A full house at the business dinner for the City to City Renewing My workplace conference Tess Holgate

As a Christian, Premier Baird said, “you have to be purposeful. It doesn’t mean you force what you believe on to anyone, but you shouldn’t be holding back. Let people know who you are, what you stand for, what you believe in. I have certainly tried to do that.

“We have decided at least once a month we’re going to go to events and be explicit in our faith, and not be afraid of the consequences, and I have to say that is a dangerous thing to do.

“[But] anyone who’s living a Christian life expects storms. It’s very clear in the gospels that it’s not going to be smooth sailing. If you read the gospels it’s the opposite. You can expect difficulties and challenges. And that is something that comes with the territory.

“[But] we’re not going to back down from what we believe in and know is true.”

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