Phil Bailey is a lot like Jesus—if Jesus had to have a rum and Coke and half a ham sandwich on white bread every day. I don’t know whether Phil, who has little interest in religion, will appreciate being compared to Jesus, but he’ll surely let me know if he doesn’t.
How can I explain that I thoroughly admire and respect a boss with whom my main mode of communication is an exchange of insults? Perhaps with another question—how many people in high ranking positions are secure enough with who they are to welcome such a relationship?
Phil more than lives up to his responsibilities as dean of the college without considering himself more important than anyone else. While working with him has sharpened my tongue, it has also taught me humility. Phil knows who he is and knows that both is and isn’t a big deal. Jesus knew he was the son of God and he washed the disciples’ feet.
Which brings us to the second way Phil is like Jesus—he is first and foremost a servant. Though in a position of power, he uses every ounce of his privilege on behalf of the powerless. He and his wife, Tina, have invited many students in dire financial need to live with them. He mentioned to the university’s top donors that some students can’t afford to eat, and now we have a meal voucher program and a food bank. Though I don’t know whether I’ll ever have the capacity to emulate what Phil and Tina do, simply knowing someone does it has enlarged my view of what is possible in this world.
Jesus came to show us the divinity of our humanity, our own incarnate nature. Though Phil will undoubtedly find that last sentence too high-falutin’ (he’s from Texas), he, too, delights in his humanity and the humanity of those around him. Whether playing penny ante poker, watching football, or reporting with glee on some particularly stupid comment he heard on the news, he enjoys this world and enters fully into life rather than trying to escape from it.
And finally, Phil loves everyone, without exception and with incomparable generosity, which is really all Jesus ever asked us to do. I would gladly follow both of these men, not—as Phil will be the first to tell you—in blind obedience but rather in hopes of learning to live as they do.