Simon Peter, fisher. Be disciple!
Go away, Peter cried. I’m gripped in sin!
Follow me, beloved-- fish for people!
Lord, I am weak! Yet you call; I am in.
Vowed Peter: Where you lead, I will follow!
No, good Peter, three times you will deny.
So it was: thrice grilled, said, Him? I don’t know.
Then fled from it all-- cross, death, tomb, the rise.
Until saw Christ risen. Cried out: I failed!
Yet Peter, my rock, on you my church builds.
He served Christ-aglow; proclaimed ‘til was jailed.
And then on cross– feet up, head down– was killed.
Loved past failure, an up-down Saint stood tall.
Just so, Christ-love offers hope for us all!
God loves us so much. God is love. Love Himself sent His only Son into our messy midst– to walk with us, to touch us, to love us, to forgive us, to die for us. He didn’t come to condemn; He came to save. And he still does, every day. What love is this? It is Christ Himself: the universal, infinite, indestructible hum that sings ever softly in our souls. The Bible tells us that nothing– not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, rulers, angels, height, depth, present, future, powers, principalities– nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Except for one thing: ourselves!
Out of His abundant love, God gave us not only (in the words of Fr. Richard Rohr) universal free wireless, to connect with Him– but also free will. We can choose to connect, or not connect. It’s our choice– a choice of epic consequence.
Pride is the act of making ourselves our god. It is a forceful rejection of divine love; it separates us from God (and people). Leaders are especially vulnerable to pride. The more senior the leader, the greater the threat. It is why Jesus told us it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The power, the status, the money, the privileges– these all whisper that we are the special ones– above the huddled masses– worthy of homage– better than– self-sufficient. We walk into a room and expect attention. We go to a hotel and demand a room change if the toilet paper roll isn’t spooled in the right direction. In pride, we place our egos on a golden pedestal, half expecting to be prayed to like a graven image.
Jesus lived love in its descending form. He reached out to the hurting, the shame-filled, the stuck, the fear-gripped. Even cowardly Peter, who denied Jesus three times after His arrest and then fled into hiding, was loved and forgiven– to the point that Jesus designated him leader of His church. Jesus loved the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the persecuted. Adulterers– prostitutes– tax cheats– prisoners– cowards– those who crucified Him– all of these He loved in word and deed. Even on the cross He cried, “God, forgive them. They know not what they do.” Even on the cross He assured the repentant prisoner nailed beside him– “Today you will join me in paradise.”
Jesus taught that love is humble, gentle, peaceful and merciful. It’s patient and kind; it feels no envy; it isn’t arrogant or irritable or obstinate or rude; it doesn’t boast. It binds all together in perfect harmony. It accepts hardship, knowing that love always wins. Love is courageous– it overcomes fear. It requires surrender to receive it unearned, and then discipline to learn how to give it back to others. Especially we who are leaders must learn to let go of the seductions of the self, to open ourselves fully to God’s love.
In this age of crisis, do you see how important love is to leadership? With love for God, our neighbors and ourselves, we expand our circles of care. We ensure our organization’s missions pursue goodness. Since we lead with love, we build cultures of respect and mutual support. We care about the person as well as the job. We see the dignity of others. We value authenticity and truth. We act with courage. In our community interactions, we act with decency, civility and charity. Piety, decency, civility and charity– these are the first four rungs on the “disciplines of goodness” ladder. All four spring from love.
Rising leader, built though you are to act, to conquer, to make change happen, I encourage you to pause. Jesus asks that you abide in His love, so His joy can be in you and your joy can be made full. “Abide”-- it’s a wonderful word. In it we hear accents of surrender, submission, faith, hope, waiting, endurance, trust, patience– a “sitting next to”, much like a golden retriever might do at the feet of his master. When we abide, we allow Jesus’ love in and let it intermingle with our own love for Him. Surprised by joy, we yearn to serve. And so we pray: “Here I am, Lord. I have come to do your will.” A joy-filled leader is a wonderful sight to behold.
Next week, let’s explore how Jesus integrates love with truth.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”-- Romans 8: 37-39
In loving fellowship,
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