As Jesus followers, we talk a lot about love. We talk about loving our neighbors, as well as our enemies. We talk about including strangers, as well as listening to people with whom we disagree. We do a lot of talking, but when do we put love into action?
Jesus says that the people in our neighborhoods and cities will know that we belong to him when we put love into action by loving one another the way he has loved us. Part of your responsibility as a Christ-centered leader is to help people love others as Jesus has loved them. To take your responsibility seriously, you have to model the love of Jesus by loving the way Jesus loved. You love the people who God has entrusted to your care.
Leading with Love
Loving like Jesus is not easy. You are leading some people who put a lot of emphases on the social aspects of the gospel and at the same time you are leading others who put a lot of emphasis on the personal aspects of the gospel. How do you model for each group the love of Jesus? To add to the difficulty, you meet people with different experiences from your own. How do you love them?
Keep this in mind. In every human heart is the need to be loved and the need to be challenged to love. Everyone entrusted to your care is seeking to experience, understand, and express love in ways that make a difference in their lives and in the world in which they live. How will you model the love of Jesus for them?
Again, this week, use the pattern of Read, Reflect, Respond, Return as a tool to learn more of who you are as a Christ-centered leader.
Read John 13:34-35
Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Some think the biggest challenge facing the church today is human sexuality. But there is a greater challenge. It is the challenge of loving others just as Jesus has loved us. Is it possible to love as Jesus loved in the world in which we live?
Learning to love and modeling love is the challenge of every Christ-centered leader. But it is not only your challenge, learning to love is the challenge of the church, our nation, and the world. When our focus is on differences and disagreements, how do we walk together as sisters and brothers, united by the love of God?
Love One Another
In the midst of cultural wars, we have made enemies out of the people who disagree with us. We have used the words of Jesus as instruments of pain and separation instead of instruments of agape and reconciliation. Jesus says that the mark of true discipleship is seen in how we love one another.
Am I missing something when I think that Jesus meant for us to work on bringing people together instead of separating people? Instead of using words that vilify and demean aren’t we to use words of hope and encouragement?
Only Love Can Do That
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his book, A Testament of Hope, wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that… I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
In his sermon titled, “Love Your Enemies,” King gives several reasons why Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” One reason he gave was this:
“Jesus says to love your enemies because love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love, they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So, love your enemies.”
Learn to Love as Jesus Loved
The question is, how do we learn to love as Jesus has loved? Where do we find the desire and the courage to love one another as we have been loved?
The answer to that question starts with focusing on Jesus. In our culture, you are pressured to declare your allegiance with one side or another. You are either evangelical or progressive, or you are either traditional or liberal. You could likely add others. You are challenged to place your focus on one side or the other.
Where You Start Matters
Again, the answer to the question starts with focusing on Jesus. Where you start makes all the difference. If you start with the values of either side, you miss the value of loving like Jesus. If you start with Jesus, you begin to love like Jesus.
T. M. Anderson provides an answer. He writes, “The goal of spending time with Christ in prayer is to have His character become our character. For our life to be hidden in His life, his nature to become our nature, and His habits our habits. It is possible to become so intimately acquainted with a practice, a way of doing something that you can do it without thinking. It becomes second nature, natural. When we find the secret place of abiding in Christ, our ordinary, daily interactions with people will become much more than mundane. They will be majestic opportunities to fulfill God’s purpose. We will become fruitful Christians. All fruitfulness of this kind flows out of intimacy with Him.”
To Love Like Jesus Is a Decision
To love like Jesus is not a feeling. It is a decision. You don’t love because you feel like it or because someone agrees with you or because it benefits you. You love because you are a follower of Jesus and that is what followers of Jesus do.
As a teenager, our youth group would sing “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus.” The words were this:
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back. No turning back.
When you are being wooed by God’s grace to follow Jesus and when you have been loved by God through Jesus, you make a conscious decision to follow Jesus. Your decision to follow seals the deal on who you love and how you love them. When you decide to follow Jesus, to love like Jesus, there is no turning back. No turning back.
It is by loving one another that we show the world that we belong to Jesus. Our courage to love comes from our willingness to engage in a life-changing relationship with Jesus and with the people with whom we interact each day. It goes without saying that the love we are talking about is based upon God’s love for us. Our love for those around us grows out of the love we experience and know through Jesus Christ.
The good news is Jesus gives us the ability to love each other. The world will know the depth of your relationship with Jesus by the way you love others, especially strangers and enemies.
May your thoughts, words, and actions, your loving others, bear the mark of true discipleship. Because who you are is how you lead.
Check out LeaderCast Episode 252 – Words that Matter – Love
Or explore “Love Shaped Leadership” , “Leading With the Heart of Jesus”,
The good news in John’s gospel is “if you have seen Jesus you have seen God.” When Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you” he is saying, “Love one another as God loves.”
We don’t love one another because it is practical or because it works. We love because we are the sons and daughters of God. We love because it is who we are. It is not easy. People who love unconditionally usually wind up on a cross. Remember that crucifixions have a way of being followed by resurrections. The end of love is its beginning. Only those who are foolish enough to lose their lives will find them. It is the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies that lives.
Jesus did not tell his followers to love because it would work. It never occurred to him whether it was practical or not. As followers of Jesus, we love because that is who we are.
Of course, you don’t have to be a follower of Jesus. But if you are, one of the conditions is that you love outsiders, people who are different, whether they be your friends or not, and that you pray for people you consider to be enemies, those who hurt you and take advantage of you. Because it is God’s nature to love, you love who God loves.
It is by the way you love others that the community and the world know you are a follower of Jesus. The single most important factor of a Christ-centered leader is love. Who you are is how you lead.
O God, show the world your love through me today.
Stir up within me the desire to serve you in trust and obedience;
the desire to not only do good but to be good;
the desire to live peaceably with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, enemies;
and the desire to surrender this day and every part of my life: family, friends; fears, failures; finances, fantasies; focus and future to your love in Jesus Christ.
Make me aware of the people around me today so that I might be a blessing to someone somewhere today. I offer myself to you in and through the love I know in Jesus. Amen
Give God thanks for the people you met today. In what situations did you find yourself loving like Jesus? Upon what criteria did you base your decision to put love into action? In what situations did you help others put love into action? What difference did loving like Jesus make in your life and the lives of the people around you today? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to love others as you have been loved.