October 25, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Revelation 5:6 (NIV)
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne.
How do we give faithful expression to our deepest passions this election season without turning them into idols?
As leaders, we are given good gifts to serve others. At the core of those gifts is a passion that drives us forward. We discern God’s mission for ourselves and for the people and organizations God has entrusted into our care. Great leaders learn to harness their passions into a steely resolve to fulfill the mission which they believe is theirs to fulfill. So, what could go wrong?
I’ve had the privilege of serving on several boards early in my life. I learned much from more experienced leaders about serving and leading well in a governance setting. But I also saw a darker side. What surprised me was how destructive power could be wielded—not despite, but because of a passionate commitment to the well-being of the institution. In fact, people did damage while oblivious to their effect because they thought they were doing what was necessary for the institution to survive and flourish. I learned early on that being committed to the right cause is not enough. We must be committed to the right cause in the right way.
We reflected yesterday on the apostle Paul’s proclamation that Jesus is Lord. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul recounts Christ’s suffering and death as a model for our discipleship. Paul inextricably connects Jesus’ inauguration as the Lord of all with Jesus’ sacrificial love for all. In other words, Jesus’ exaltation was God’s exclamation mark not only on the result of what Jesus accomplished but on the way Jesus accomplished it. Jesus transforms the means of power as well as the result of what power brings about.
What might that tell us about how we can give faithful expression to our deepest passions this election season without turning them into idols? How might this help us to be committed to the right cause in the right way?
First, because Jesus is Lord, we need to act with humility. This is so, in the first instance, because Jesus alone is Lord, and we are not. No matter how much insight or authority we have been given, we are servants first and not masters. Because Jesus is Lord of all, we do not have the final say. And we can always be wrong. God can always surprise us, no matter how sure we are in our passionate convictions that we are right. Humility is the expression of our hope in God rather than in ourselves. Therefore, humility is always the first (and last) virtue in Christian leadership.
Second, because Jesus is Lord, we must love our enemies. This is particularly difficult when we believe that we are on the side of good, and our enemies (many of whom are our siblings in Christ) are evil. Like the apostles John and James, we would rather “call fire down from heaven to destroy them” (Luke 9:54, NIV). Jesus’ rebuke of his inner circle should remind us all that none of us are immune from trying to do the right thing in the wrong way.
But what if our enemies win out?
Then, finally, because Jesus is Lord, we must trust in God’s resurrection power rather than in our own success. The extraordinary good news of the gospel is that when all hope seems lost, when the light of our God-given passions seems to flicker and go dark, when all our good work seems to have been in vain, we can trust God to raise the dead. After all, that’s what Jesus did on the cross. In the same way, our deepest passions which are congruent with the kingdom of God can be entrusted to the God of the resurrection. And to the degree our passions are distorted or misguided, we can trust that God will do what is good and right, even if that means we ourselves (and our passions) must be altered and transformed.
These three insights mean, paradoxically, that we must hold our deepest passions and commitments lightly. We must not allow them to enslave us, which all idols do. Instead, we must remain “slaves” of Jesus Christ, who alone is Lord, and in whose service alone is real freedom.
And so, we come at last to today’s text: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne.” This is the reason a Christian vision of leadership is good news for the world. “Jesus Christ is Lord” is the proclamation that radically transforms humanity’s conception of the means and results of power. No longer does might make right. No longer does power mean oppression of the weak and powerless. No longer is power focused on self-aggrandizement. Instead, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is “a Lamb.” Not only that, but the lamb is one “looking as if it had been slain.” And that slain lamb is the one who is “standing at the center of the throne” of the universe. That’s the way Jesus Christ is Lord, and that’s worth pondering this election season.
Which of your deepest passions are susceptible to idolatry? In what ways does that idolatry express itself?
Take time to pray for those with whom you deeply disagree politically. Pray for those particularly who bring out the deepest frustration and anger within you.
Lord Jesus Christ,
We struggle mightily with your command to love our enemies. They frustrate us. They oppose what we believe to be in your kingdom interests. At times they even seem to be the very embodiment of evil.
Help us, Lord, to do what is impossible for us. You laid down your life for the Roman soldiers who mocked and killed you, and for the religious leaders who used you to achieve their own political agendas. Help us to pray for those who despise us, and for those, if we are honest, whom we despise in our hearts.
Give us grace and mercy to not become like our enemies but to become more like you.
We ask in your name. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Throne Room of God (Revelation 4 and 5)
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.
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