Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 93; 150, Genesis 18:22-33, 1 Peter 5:1-11, Matthew 7:15-29
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
In his first epistle, Peter wrote these words to both the elders of the early church and the younger members of the flock. He advised the elders not to lord their position over anyone, and the younger to accept appropriate authority. This may seem like a basic teaching, but even among Christians who have been circulating this letter for two thousand years, it’s easier said than done.
In church and in business, it’s easy to confuse being a boss with being a leader. Bosses tell people what to do, expect people to accept marching orders whether they make sense or not, and often aren’t willing to entertain challenges. Leaders on the other hand embody qualities that make people want to follow them, empower and encourage people to make decisions that support the organization’s vision, and listen to what the people they are leading have to say. A boss makes it your problem; leaders make it their responsibility.
According to Peter, the difference between a boss and a leader is humility. We should never confuse humility with a lack of confidence. To the contrary, the bossiest people are often the most brittle and least confident about their vision, while confidence allows for an open mind. Leaders are decisive, but they are also thoughtful and flexible. A boss reprimands; a leader coaches. Because they view the relationship with the people they lead (and with fellow leaders) as collaborative rather than adversarial, leaders trust people unless there is a reason not to. Peter, though the effective head of the church, considered himself one elder among many.
Christianity is a voluntary state. Good Christians leaders don’t intimidate or bully people into faith or good behavior – they make a compelling case for the love of Christ. Even once we opt in to being part of the Christian community, the job of our leaders is not chief prosecutor, but mentor. Yes they must always stick to sound teaching, and sometimes even discipline, but the primary method of both should adhere to the grace Christ offers us.
Comfort: It’s OK to question your church leaders when they seem in it for their own gain. Even if you’re mistaken, a good leaders will listen to what you have to say.
Challenge: If you are called to a position of authority or decision-making, be a leader not a boss.
Prayer: Gracious God, teach me to be humble, for I am serving both when I lead and when I follow. Amen.
Discussion: Who’s one of the best leaders you’ve met and why?
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