Leadership and power go together. Some leaders use power to project their attitudes and perspectives upon others. They use their position and influence to keep situations and circumstances from changing, which prohibits people from becoming who God has created them to be.
Other leaders have received the power to change their attitudes and perspectives. As they grow in their leadership, they invite others to explore their own attitudes and they work for the changes needed to bring about the full potential of the people entrusted to their care. The question is, how do you use the power given to you?
The Power to Reshape Attitudes
As a Christ-centered leader, you have been given the power to challenge and reshape attitudes that are deeply rooted in people. As you work to empower people to become who God created them to be, you help them confront and understand their attitudes.
Attitude is more than disposition or feeling. One aspect of attitude is understanding where you are and what direction you are going. As you help others discover and develop their potential to lead, you assist them in knowing who they are and why they live, act, and lead the way they do.
Remember, the key to your power is the source of your power. The source shapes your values, character, faith, and attitudes. It helps you become more aware of the people God gives you to love and to lead. And as you grow closer to the source, you begin to be more aware of the people around you, your attitude toward them, and what God has provided for you to love them as you have been loved.
So, how does this power work for you as a leader?
Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return
Let’s use our practice of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return” to explore how this power helps you discover the attitudes that hinder you from communicating across barriers of prejudice and exclusion.
Below is a story from the 10th Chapter of Acts. It is a three-part story of Simon Peter and his ministry with the Gentiles. This story will give you insight into understanding leadership and the power of attitude. Please do not skip over the scripture. It is a great story that actually provides insight into your leadership.
Read Acts 10:1-28
1In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. 2 He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. 3 One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4 He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; 6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, 8 and after telling them everything he sent them to Joppa.
9 About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.
17 Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18 They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three[a] men are searching for you. 20 Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22 They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous[b] and God-fearing man who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish people, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So Peter[c] invited them in and gave them lodging.
The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the brothers and sisters from Joppa accompanied him.
Peter and Cornelius Meet
24 The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 On Peter’s arrival, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, worshiped him. 26 But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled, 28 and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is improper for a Jew to associate with or to visit an outsider, but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.
Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
This story is traditionally known as the conversion of Cornelius, but it could be called the conversion and attitude change of Peter. Peter has been preaching among the Gentiles, but his attitude has been one of “God loves all people but not all people are acceptable.” As he is reaching out to non-Jewish people, he is not convinced they are to be totally included.
Cornelius was one of the Roman soldiers who was interested in Jesus. He was among the Gentiles who was impressed with Jewish monotheism and ethics, and sometimes attended the synagogue. Yet, he remained a Gentile. He was a good man who prayed and gave to the poor. One day while praying he had a vision of an angel of God. In the vision God spoke to him, affirmed his good works, and told him to send for Peter. At the conclusion of his vision, he sent a delegation of three to ask Peter to come to his house.
At the same time, Cornelius had his vision, Peter had his own vision. He was at Simon the Tanner’s house. He had gone up on the roof to pray before lunch. While praying and waiting for lunch, he had his vision. Heaven opened and something like a large sheet came down with all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds. At that point, he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”
Peter responded to the voice by saying, “Lord, I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” Then the voice said, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times before the vision concluded.
It is in the midst of this vision that God was planting a seed for an attitude change. Peter was hesitant to eat because some of the animals were unclean according to Jewish dietary laws. But through this vision, he learned that God’s message was not about specific foods, but about accepting all people, even the Gentiles. His attitude began to change.
While Peter was trying to understand the vision, the delegation sent by Cornelius arrived. They asked for Peter. While Peter was still reflecting upon the vision, the Spirit told him that three men were searching for him. So, Peter met the delegation, listened to why they had come, and then provided hospitality for them. The next day Peter went with the delegation to Cornelius’ house.
Peter and Cornelius Meet
When Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house, he realized the significance of his vision. He was being taught that God’s message was not as much about keeping dietary laws as it was about loving and accepting people, all people, including Gentiles.
This discovery for Peter led to a major attitude change. From “You yourselves know that it is improper for a Jew to associate with or to visit an outsider…” to “but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” Peter made a huge journey from holding people at arm’s length to sharing the good news of Jesus with outsiders, strangers, and Gentiles. It is while he is in the home of Cornelius that he understands the vision from the day before.
This event convinced Peter that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles as well. They were baptized, and Peter acknowledged that Gentiles were also included in God’s plan of salvation.
The power of the Holy Spirit transforms leaders. In fact, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes and shapes Christ-centered leaders. For Luke, this is a pivotal moment in the spread of Christianity, from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and now to the ends of the earth.
For you and me, this is the heart-opening moment that as followers of Jesus, all people are included in his love and acceptance. It is the presence and power of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, who gives you the power to lead as you have been created to lead. Just remember, who you are is how you lead.
This story illustrates the breaking of traditional barriers and the widening of God’s grace to all people. Regardless of ethnic or cultural background, God’s love is available to everyone. There are several things to notice in this story.
God Hears Your Prayer
First, God hears the prayers of non-Christians just as God hears the prayers of Christ-centered leaders. Both Peter and Cornelius pray. The prayers of both are heard, and both have visions in which they receive revelations from God. The answer to their prayers is to bring together those who share the good news of Jesus with those who need to hear the good news of Jesus. The question is, are you open to God leading you to share God’s good news, especially with those persons who are not a part of your group or who you might consider to be sinners or unworthy?
The Power of the Holy Spirit
Second, the transformative power of the Holy Spirit changes the attitudes of Christ-centered leaders. God has created you to be who God needs you to be. Although you think and feel one way at this moment, God is working to bring about something new and greater for you in the next moment. The question is, are you open to the power of God to change your attitudes, especially toward the people you have always kept at a distance?
Third, no Christ-centered leader is above rejecting a direct command of God. When God tells Peter to eat what has been provided on the sheet, Peter speaks back to God, “Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” Peter is being faithful to the biblical command that is to be obeyed. So, Peter’s refusal is not simply his pettiness or prejudice, although it is obvious that God intends to include all people. Peter is simply too narrow-minded to accept what is clearly God’s will. The question is, are you open to becoming more who God has created you to be and to lead in ways you are being called to lead?
What God has made clean…
Fourth, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” is a fundamental declaration of the Christian faith. God is the Creator of all people, the one who loves and accepts all people, and the one who wants to create a community within the divided world that will be God’s witnesses to the inclusiveness of God’s love. Peter finally sees this, not as the result of his vision, but on the basis of further experience within the Christian community. The question is, how are you growing in your faith as a Jesus follower and how is the community of faith helping you become the Christ-centered leader needed for this time?
Christ-centered leaders have been given the power to communicate beyond the limits of nation, race, gender, sexual orientation, social and economic status within the community of faith. After conversations and reflection, Peter changed his attitude.
This is how God’s revelation works in the community as it continues to face new situations and discover the will and direction of God. You have been given the power to change your own thinking, attitudes, and direction. It is in your faithfulness that you have the power to lead others in the development of their own attitudes as Jesus followers. Who you are is how you lead.
Give God thanks for the people you met today.
- What did you learn about yourself and your attitudes today?
- What do you plan to do with what you are learning about yourself and about God’s work in and through you?
- How did you interact with the people God sent your way?
- Who is helping you remember that you are a child of God and that you have been empowered to love others as God has loved you?
- What will you do differently tomorrow?
- Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.
O God, today I give you thanks for life and work. I pray for the power to be your witness starting where I am now. Remind me throughout the day of how you love me and how you have empowered me to love the people around me. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus. Amen