But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith…
1 Timothy 6:11-12
Love for those he leads is another indispensable qualification for leadership. It is not enough to only tolerate them, to like what they achieve, or to love the concept of teamwork. The Christian leader must love the people he is assigned to lead.
Some might say, “Well, I love them, but I do not like them.” That attitude, however, is not true love. There may be negative aspects of people, some bad habits and personal traits that we are not very fond of – no one would deny that – but love still hopes and finds something to like. Love must go beyond theory and look into the reality of someone’s heart, personality, and actions, and find something admirable there, something of hope, something that endears the person to us.
Love always opens us up to respect others, to hear from their perspective, and to honor their opinions as well. Those we love we learn to trust, at least to the degree that is advisable, and look to their heart for change toward God and progress in their faith. Paul wrote, “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:7). Even if the one we love fails a thousand times, for love’s sake we still reach out to hope and look for ways to trust.
Moody said, “If you can convince a man you love him, you have won him.” I have been watching the painful legacy of a pastor who convinced his church that he loved God but did not trust them – and the result of his ministry has been two churches, now, divided and damaged, perhaps beyond recovery. A person without love will speak down to others, and over the long haul will reveal his heart and his lack of confidence in them. Generally speaking, people rise to meet the expectations of those who love them and believe in them. So leaders must love others, expect great things from them, believe in their potential, and even when they fail to still hope for their repentance and progress.
The greatest leaders love and respect those they lead. They like them and see the potential in them. They bring them into their confidences, share their hearts, and communicate to them that they are on the same side. Every person in the world is hoping to meet someone who believes in him, who instills him with confidence, who peers past his failures and sees hope and life and real potential. If you want to leave a legacy, then communicate this to someone, that you love them and believe in their potential.
We may do this insincerely, or we may do this naively, as though the person has no weaknesses at all, but the best way is to do this realistically. And Christian realism includes the love of God for people in our assessment — if God loves them, then we should, too. The better teachers do not insult the potential of their students but invite them to see themselves in a new light, to grasp the potential of life, to believe in themselves. Paul never insulted the people of God, rather in spite of the problems that might exist in the churches, he always saw them in the best possible light: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy” (1 Cor. 1:2), “To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. We always thank God … when we pray for you” (Col. 1:2-3). He was not blind to their problems, but he always saw them primarily in light of what they could become in Christ.
Do you love those you lead? Do you love and like your children? Are you compassionate toward them? Do you believe in their potential? Does anyone believe in your potential? God does. He knows the work He began in you at salvation and He promises to carry it through to completion. Out of His love and compassion for us, and His hope in us, we may love and lead others.