If that seems like a tall order, it is! Unconditional love is not something people muster up on their own. In order to love this way leaders, like everyone else, need to be vitally connected to the Lord Jesus– like branches connected to a vine (John 15) – receiving the love of Jesus and letting it flow through their lives to others.
Benefits for leaders who are loving:
1. Those who pursue loving others do not need to spend valuable energy and attention avoiding destructive behaviors.
2. Loving others catalyzes transformation in the leader.
Benefits for the community where leaders are loving:
1. Loving others enables leaders to go beyond just accomplishing goals to creating community culture, fostering collaboration and raising up new leadership.
2. Loved people are able to offer more of their creativity and passion to the team.
Biblical inspiration and support:
Recently a friend gave me a book, Renovated by Jim Wilder. While I was reading the first two chapters a thought stirred in me… What if the two greatest commandments are not just God’s demands on us, or even the path to a fruitful life… What if they are also God’s mode of transforming us?
According to Jesus himself, the greatest commandments are loving God and loving each other:
“34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36’“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37 And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:34–40, ESV).
It’s of utmost importance for Christian leaders to love God and to love others for so many reasons… because the Lord commanded us to do so, because that is the culture of the Kingdom of God, because that is what Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith – modeled… but I am starting to wonder if, in addition to all of that, what if seeking to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as ourselves actually engages us in the process of God’s transformation in our lives? We are not able to truly love as Christ loves apart from God’s grace… but perhaps it is through the shaping that occurs as we continually turn our hearts toward a posture of loving God and others that we are transformed into those who love their enemies.*
So, although it doesn’t seem like “love” is critical to commercial success, it makes my Leadership A to Z list. The command to love is all over the New Testament, like in Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome:
“8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8–10, ESV, emphasis mine)
Again, if we pursue love, I do not think we are going to have to spend a lot of time trying to avoid all the “you shall not’s” because all the “you shall not’s” are not loving. If we point our attitudes and actions toward the target of love, we are going to be pleasing God and bringing Him glory.
And Paul seems realistic about the fact that it is not always going to be easy to love one another as he writes:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV, emphasis mine)
“12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.“ (Colossians 3:12–14, ESV, emphasis)
The statement “bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, ESV) itself implies loving others is not always easy. Love requires commitment and effort. Yet, love binds all the other virtues listed together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14). Love is powerful.
We are called to be loving, and therefore I believe we are empowered by God’s grace to be loving. As we pursue loving God and loving others, we will not be spending so much time on avoiding quarreling, lying or other vices… we will be moving toward the thing that transforms us, others and therefore situations… God’s amazing Love.
* Wilder says in his book that Dallas Willard’s test of transformation was if one spontaneously loved their enemies.
 Wilder, Jim, Renovated (NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 2020), 3.
During the pandemic we are all struggling. There has been a lot of disagreement and isolation. During the last year I started noticing that people often seemed ill at ease during conversations. It seemed like they were wondering if they were going to be rejected as they interacted with me. I have a desire to create hospitable space for people, and so I tried to apply the scripture, “…perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18, NIV) by attempting to create a safe space for people in conversation with me. So I’ve been experimenting with how I might do that. I now make an effort to take time with the Lord before meetings to get my own needs of acceptance met so I can offer acceptance more freely. I ask the Lord to fill me with His love for the person I am about to meet with and to help me be hospitable to them. I ask for the ability to see things from their point of view. During meetings I have tried to go out of my way to let people know that I am committed to the relationship, even if we are disagreeing or having difficulty connecting. I take extra care to communicate what the relationship means to me. It seems that if the person feels secure in our relationship, we might actually get somewhere in the conversation. If they do not, misunderstandings abound and estrangement is likely. When things are challenging, I am trying to gently pursue the other person instead of interpreting the tension as rejection and drifting out of relationship. Love is powerful… and I am exploring ways to communicate love to people and so set them at ease.
The One Jesus Loves.
The author of the Gospel of John describes one disciple as “the one whom Jesus loved,” presumably to avoid saying His own name as he referred to himself (see John 13:23, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20 . What a powerful conviction he had about his own identity! It seems he believed that the most foundational truth about him was that he was the one Jesus loves. What about us? What is our most foundational belief about ourselves? How would we describe ourselves? Does it seem a bit forward or presumptuous to call yourself the one Jesus loves?
Because you are the one Jesus loves.
If you are not sure of this, spend some time in these Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth:
John 15:9-12; 16:26-27
Ephesians 5:1-2, 25
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
1 John 3:1-2
I invite you to spend a few minutes each morning this week, in the quiet, alone with the Lord in prayer, trying on this truth: “I am the one Jesus loves.”
Then, take one more minute to imagine the people you will come across during the next 24 hours, and recognize that they are the one Jesus loves. Pray that they would know Jesus if they do not, and that they would receive His love and would come to know they are the one Jesus loves. (This is fun to do in silent prayer when you are in meetings as well. It often softens my heart toward the other people in the room and helps me be more sensitive to what God’s goals in the situation might be.)
(This is my adaptation of a spiritual exercise called the Long Loving Gaze that was introduced to me by a Spiritual Director who had learned it in studying Ignatius of Loyola.)
A parting word on love:
Love transforms individuals and communities.
Comment: What helps you “bear with one another in love”? (See Ephesians 4:2 and Colossians 3:13)
Hi! I'm Jeri Howe.
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