February 24, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Matthew 5:17-18
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Human beings are creatures in whom and with whom the Maker of the Universe has chosen to dwell, and through whom God intends to work his purpose in the world. And that should make us look differently at each person we serve and lead.
Disturbingly to some, the Christian faith is built entirely upon one life – that of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians dare to believe that, in Jesus, God shows up uniquely in person and in history. That’s an extraordinary claim with extraordinary implications worth exploring.
To begin with, it’s worth noting that God shows up personally. As Jesus suggests in today’s text, God never intended to merely provide a set of impersonal instructions for the human race – imagine the two tablets of stone that Moses received on Mt. Sinai. As important as those were, God’s ultimate intention was to show up in the person of Jesus. That’s the sense in which Jesus uses the words “fulfill” and “accomplished” as they describe the relationship between the Hebrew Scriptures (“the Law and the Prophets”) and himself. From the beginning, God planned to provide not only written guidance for humanity but a personal presence. And not only that, but a singular example.
That brings us to the second noteworthy observation: God shows up as a human being. God could have come in the form of an angel – as seems to have happened on occasion in the history of Israel. Instead, God became fully human in Jesus of Nazareth. That’s as astonishing as it is mysterious. Even for Christians, it’s hard to think of Jesus as both truly God and truly human. It’s easier to imagine Jesus as some kind of Superman. He may look human, we think. He may even act human. But deep down, we know that he’s not really human. After all, he is God, so how could he be? And yet, that’s his claim. Fully human as well as fully divine.
Why would God do this?
One reason is that God wants humanity to have a “high definition” picture of who God is and what God is like. As one of the New Testament writers explains, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV, my italics). In the Law and the Prophets, we get only incomplete glimpses of God’s character. In Jesus, God’s character is seen exactly in a human life.
Another reason is that, in Jesus, God demonstrates humanity’s purpose in the world. Becoming human wasn’t merely an unfortunate necessity for God, either because of our creaturely limitations or only for our redemption. Rather, humanity was always intended to be the Living God’s living expression in the world. Both ends of the biblical story remind us of this. God created human beings in the beginning to bear his image in the world (Genesis 1-2) and God will fully make his home in and with them in the end (Revelation 21-22). And from beginning to end, God intends human beings to share in God’s stewardship (his “dominion” or “rule”) in the world. If you doubt that, note the last thing said about human beings in the biblical record: “And they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5 NIV).
So, how does any of this relate to our work as leaders?
First of all, the extraordinary dignity of each human person is ultimately rooted in Jesus. Even the notion of universal human rights has its source in the Judeo-Christian tradition. And the gospel of Jesus not only affirms those but takes the dignity of human beings to another level. Human beings are creatures in whom and with whom the Maker of the Universe has chosen to dwell, and through whom God intends to work his purpose in the world. And that should make us look differently at each person we serve and lead.
Second, and more personally, we can see ourselves and our work as objects of God’s attention and delight. The pace and sometimes impersonal nature of business can make me feel like a node in a network rather than like a person with a purpose. Jesus reminds me that God takes a personal interest in our work. Imagine that. The Maker of the Universe cares about what you and I do. And not only that, but he also wants to delight in our good work (Proverbs 8:31).
Perhaps as mysteriously as God showing up in the person of Jesus, God wants to show up in each of our work. After all, that’s why the Holy Spirit has been “poured out” after Jesus’ departure. One of our tasks as leaders is to notice when that happens.
How does God becoming a human being affect the way you think about your work as a leader?
Think back on your last week. In what ways has God “shown up” in your work and in your leadership?
Lord Jesus Christ,
You who are God became one of us. Not merely because you had to, nor only for our redemption, but because that’s why you made us. As one of your early followers said, the glory of God is a human being fully alive. And so we are, because of you.
We are grateful that you came and demonstrated your glory in becoming human. Help us to see your glory and your image in all whom we serve and lead.
May we glorify you in all we do.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: What Does It Mean That Jesus Came to Fulfill Scripture?.
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During his adult life, Uli Chi has lived and worked in the intersection between business, the academy and the church. He has had the privilege of serving as past Board Chair of Regent College in Vancouver, BC, as current Vice Chair of the Board of the Max De Pree Leadership Center at Fuller Seminary, and as current Chair of the Executive Committee of the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University. He has also been involved in all aspects of local church leadership, including as a member of the adult ministries team’s teaching faculty at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Seattle.
Click here to view Uli’s profile.