Since I wrote last week’s post about attempting to demonstrate unconditional love to absolutely everyone, I am so happy and grateful to say that God has been doing some work in my heart to enable me to see people more graciously, and also to develop a heart of greater humility. Humility is my big battle in the faith. Whenever someone treads on my toes, which is often, it is so easy for my heart to rise up in (self-)righteous indignation and for me to spend time thinking very deeply about how wrong they are, (thinking of various expressively rude words and terms to describe people like them…) and how right I tend to be… This in itself is completely wrong, and God rejects it as pride. However, I sincerely do want to be humble for God and holy towards Him, and He has been so patient with me. Whenever I can see clearly then I realise that humility must become a huge cry of my heart, now and always. For anyone who aspires after greatness in God as I do, humility must be a huge and ongoing focus. We will get our toes firmly stepped on, countless times – perhaps not merely our toes, but even sometimes our whole foot, or both of them, will actually be broken by the actions of others, metaphorically speaking. On the other hand, God might achieve amazing things through us which we could easily be persuaded to feel proud about in our human frailty and naivete.
So the work that God has been doing is that He has helped me understand how I can overlook whatever bad thing someone may have done, to think of the precious human being behind the action. I have actually said this before, God has helped me in this way before. It is just that I always forget, and fall into negativity about others, then I have to relearn the lesson again…. over and over and over, until it actually drives my mindset.
Something else that occurred to me over the course of the week, is that continued unconditional love of anyone, including people who have done wrong things, is actually leadership. This is the leadership that God shows us, in that He keeps the door open to us, and He keeps showing us His kindness, His grace, His love throughout our lifetimes, no matter what we have done or continue to do to Him. This is the reason why I know that it cannot actually be right for me to permanently cut someone off, because this is so different from the way God Himself actually acts. As Christians, God is to be our model in life, and we are to aspire to be like Him, within the boundaries that He has placed for us.
This is what I mean by leadership: As Christians, many of us aspire after positions of leadership. We want people to see that God is working through us, and just like many people in the world outside the church, we want the power of being able to tell people what to do, and the feeling of being “in charge”. Sometimes the positions that we aspire after are established, official positions, like being the pastor of a church, or the area manager of a network of churches. Sometimes the leadership that we aspire after is less official. That is, we might not aspire after defined positions, but we still want to be recognised as being influential; we still want our words to carry authority with people who might be listening just because we have said them.
For me personally, there have been times when I have desired to be recognised and assigned to official positions of leadership. However, for approximately the last twelve years, I have recognised that for myself a pursuit of leadership like this is largely futile. What I have pursued instead in that time is God Himself, and His supernatural power for supernatural things. On this blog I aim not to present myself as someone of influence, but rather to share with others what I have discovered and how God has been working in me and through me, and how God can equally work in and through any of us and all of us. (Invariably though, my heart often gets caught up in the desire to appear influential and to be regarded as influential, and a post unconsciously written to show others that I am truly influential will be subtly different from one that is written without any consideration of myself at all). At any rate, on the whole, I do not aspire after “leadership” as many Christians do for the simple reason that I would rather exercise real power from God to do truly amazing things than throw my weight about in ordering other people around.
That said, because of the extent of my pursuit of Christ, and my commitment to communicate this as clearly and purely as I can, I know that I don’t have to aspire after being in leadership, I am in leadership. Additionally because of my business endeavours, I read very, very many articles about how to be a great leader, and how that often differs from being merely a manager or a boss. I want to understand the way people work, and how to effectively interact with them. This is often not about having an established position, but rather about successful and productive interactions with other people, regardless of position. That said, I am in the process of founding companies, and establishing myself as CEO over these companies which will hopefully (and prayerfully!) be very successful.
How unconditional love is leadership
I have elaborately made my points above because I want to demonstrate that when I discovered that unconditional love is leadership, it is not because I went out to look for leadership. In fact, I was not even thinking in terms of “unconditional love” or even love itself. Rather I found myself in a position where I was so concerned about someone that I found myself spontaneously investing lots of effort and consideration into their welfare, without really stopping to think about myself, or to carefully choose my steps, which is highly uncharacteristic for me. I did not even have time to strategise about my aims or what I wanted to show them. I could only act out of blind fear in what seemed like a deeply urgent situation. I think that we have all been there, where, out of genuine consideration for someone else, we have freely given of ourselves and our time for the sake of helping out, whether the person in question is a family member, a friend, a school or work colleague.
In this particular event, my efforts were appreciated, thankfully. However, I got to thinking that this must be what unconditional love looks like, to continue doing this on an ongoing basis, even where your efforts are neither noticed nor appreciated. And that is how this whole Unconditional Love thing started. A further element of understanding that God has now granted to me, especially concerning people who consistently mistreat me, is that this unconditional love, of anyone, is actually leadership. Please take note of the way I have expressed this. I have not said that “Leadership is unconditional love”. Rather I have said that “Unconditional love is leadership”. I am making the point about this because, as I have said, the focus in my mind was not “How to demonstrate that I am a leader”. So I am not suggesting to you that as a wannabe Christian leader, widely recognised and revered and considered influential, that you should add “unconditional love” to your list of strategies. Rather I am saying that where genuine concern is your genuine aim, then without realising it, without aiming for it, without striving for it, you will find that you are exercising effective leadership!
OK, now let’s talk about the practicalities of how it actually works.
Perhaps when I talk about “unconditional love” it can sound a little uncomfortable, especially when we are thinking about the other gender. Perhaps it is easier to think in terms of “unconditional concern”. (This also makes it easier for me to think about showing this to everyone else, including people who have hurt me, as I considered in last week’s post). This is what unconditional concern looks like: continuing to care about someone else, and about things that truly touch them, the things that they care about, without thinking of myself, or what I stand to gain, or even what I am trying to “prove” or show. It is when you relate with someone and all the thoughts in your heart are about them, and how best to cater to what they need from you at that particular point. It is about offering our care to others, but not forcing it on them, allowing people to only take as much as they need or want or are willing to accept. Love, or care, or concern, does not force itself on others, like God does not force His love on us, even after we have become Christians.
Image of man walking by George Hodan at http://www.publicdomainpictures.net