When I think of Jesus as a leader, the one characteristic seems to rise to the top (apart from being sinless and the only perfect leader to walk this earth) is His truthfulness. Jesus spoke the truth. And sometimes, He spoke it bluntly (think Matthew 12:34).
While He certainly wasn’t a jerk, He had no desire to beat around the bush, waver, or sugar-coat a thing. He spoke the truth, and He spoke it in love. Uncompromisingly, he spoke the truth for the good of whoever was in earshot. Yes, He’s the perfect Son of God. No, we’re not. But I’ve been reflecting on this a bit lately.
Leading like Jesus isn’t only about what we do and the decisions we make, it’s also about what we say and how we say it. In short…
Let’s take these in turn.
What? The Truth.
We must speak the truth. Recently, our community was in the news when a business in town sold. Normally this wouldn’t be news––businesses sell all the time. However, there was some history that made this occasion newsworthy.
Those inside our small community know about what God is doing in our two churches. We know all about the deliciousness served up at the local cafe. There seems to be a deep sense of love and support for one another in our isolated town.
There was also a store I was warned about it before I came and received our fair share of angry voicemails because of it. It was a store covered with signs like “Bring Back the KKK” or “Muslims Not Welcome.” Outside of our town, this is what our community was known for.
I knew behind the signs was a person loved by God, and I determined to make sure he knew that, even if his signs and actions made me sick to my stomach. I often shared the gospel with the owner, but I also had to remind him (and many visitors) the signs didn’t represent our church or our community. Both of these represent speaking the truth.
How? In love.
While many people tried to have “gotcha” moments with Jesus, aiming to back Him into a corner, He didn’t respond in kind. His words of truth, however direct or firm, were said in love. Even if His words would lose followers, He said them, and He said them in love (Matthew 19:16-22, for example). In Scripture, we see that Jesus is motivated by love––not hate, “gotcha” moments, or riling up a crowd.
Recently, the store mentioned above made news again, but this time, it was good––it had sold, and a regional news station caught wind of it and requested an interview. I accepted, and the Spirit brought to mind Ephesians 4:15, and this command to speak the truth in love. As I prepared, I knew it would be easy to dwell on the past signs or even add more hate or harassment stories we’ve endured.
It would’ve been the truth, but the more I thought about it, I didn’t believe that would’ve been in love––that would’ve been more of a “gotcha” moment or riling up a crowd that was unnecessary, unloving, and unchristlike. Therefore, I committed to speaking about this new chapter beginning and how it was good for our community.
And the response was overwhelming. In a season filled with bad news, it seemed most in and out of our community welcomed some good news. Dwelling on the past, though true, only added to the chorus of bad. Focusing on the future, which was also true, was far more loving, especially for people of color, immigrants, and other past targets, which allowed me the opportunity to share Jesus with far more people.
Of course, speaking the truth in love isn’t always popular, but we’re not called to be popular, but faithful. Leading like Jesus means being uncompromising, truthful, and loving. Our goal isn’t to win arguments, but souls, and one way we do so is to speak the truth in love. As you finish up this week and begin the weekend, look for opportunities to speak truth––not “truth bombs,” but love-filled words of truth to all who will hear.