A genuine love for God always goes with a love for other people, ready to act in order to meet their needs. A genuine love for one another is also a deep, heartfelt love. These two features of love, readiness to act and heartfelt affection, each resonates with work or play. One of the main ways that we act to meet other people’s needs is through our work, while one of the main ways we express affection and connection is through play.
The landscape of Scripture is populated with saints who faced unmerited deprivations that affected their whole lives, including their work. Joseph was enslaved and then imprisoned on a false accusation. David was on the run for years despite being the rightfully anointed king. Esther survived being held captive in a pagan harem, and found a way to advocate for her people in such circumstances. I may feel the allure of achievement telling us, “If you work hard and do the right thing, you’ll get ahead.” In contrast, Jesus tells me, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).
Bad news about work situations is par for the course. I shouldn’t be offended by it, as though I deserve better or are somehow above the vicissitudes of life that common mortals face.
It is the joy of Jesus himself that we enter into as we abide in his love. This is the work of the Spirit. It is not a joy that we manufacture; it is a joy that we receive. And, just like Jesus, we enter into it through laying everything down at God’s feet. We die with Christ, and we share in his resurrection life.
Jesus’ teaching is that the kind of heart that reacts to others in anger is a heart that will lead me toward God’s judgment. Anger is a sin that fails to honor the precious people whom God has created. When I routinely directed anger at Katie over money matters, I was failing to see her as the kind of being to whom such anger simply should not be directed. She is too precious for that.
Somehow, my pain had become a place where I could experience God’s love. It was as though I needed the warm-up of paying attention to my emotions more intentionally for a few months before it was even possible for me to experience something like that. As I got to know my emotions for myself, I now could share them with God. I could find God in the sadness.
One news story after another has revealed lurking cases of abuse in faith communities that, from the outside, looked vibrant and whole. These stories can be disorienting. They leave us asking difficult questions. How can I know if a new church community is a safe place? When is it right to extend my trust to the leaders of a church? If I’m serving in leadership, how can I tell whether my own community is a good place for people to find their spiritual footing?
How can you personally keep your leadership in sync with your own spiritual maturity? All of us need humility to suppose there are levels of leadership that we may not be spiritually ready for, regardless of our other competencies. If we aspire to lead in a certain way, we need to be able to ask: Am I ready for this? Do I have the character it takes to lead well at that level?
I’d like to offer three images that can help each of us who may lead answer those questions:
Let’s look at each of these images in turn.