I was reading John 17 about Jesus’s final and big-time prayer prior to His execution. Specifically, I pondered the subject of unity and wondered at why it’s so darn hard and how utterly and supremely dangerous it is being unified for the purposes of God for our cities and the humans living there. It would seem that Satan prefers us being a thousand points of light with no high beam focus on anything. We do a lot of nice little things but nothing evil actually dies.
For some reason, of all the many things Jesus could have prayed, He chose to ask His Father that those believers coming along after His disciples would “be one… that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Now that’s astounding if you think about it. You know Jesus is only going to request of His Father what He already knows God wants done (see John 5:19). So God must believe unity to be hugely important! Jesus even gives a hint of why this is so unimaginably powerful, and that is because for some reason, if the world sees us as being “one”, it causes them to overcome their doubts and skepticism and come to a point of believing that God the Father sent God the Son to this earth! It blows away the obstacles to people coming to faith in Jesus Christ, resurrected Son of the living God.
Some of my brethren in the body love to argue and come up with theological reasons why we should be divided. Not intentionally I imagine but it’s the same result, for we end up divided. Please understand me when I say that doctrine is terribly important for there is a big difference between Truth and heresy and our enemy loves to always question what God said and twist His Word. But sometimes my brethren (who love Jesus as much or more as I do) remind me of lawyers (remember, I’m one too) with cups always half empty. They are always trying to tell you why you cannot do this or that, rather than being those lawyers who are seeing the great possibilities and point out how you can do this or that. One lawyer/scribe sees an insurmountable obstacle and says “no”, while the other sees solutions and says “yes”.
Let’s take for instance, our role in God’s plan to redeem the earth. I think we Christians can at least agree that the whole Bible is a remarkable love story about God’s plan to redeem a fallen world, with the solution ultimately revealed through Jesus Christ. It’s the part after Jesus that seems to get Christians looking at one another with suspicions of doctrinal impurity. Now please understand I’m simplifying this greatly; otherwise this turns into a book and not a blog.
Some folks say we Christians have a major role in redeeming creation. Some say not so much and that the world is only going to get worse and worse, thus we are polishing the brass on the Titanic. In fact, they argue back and forth on what role we play, if any, in God’s plan to redeem the earth.
Well, my point is that the word “redeem” seems to have a lot of sticking points depending upon where you stand theologically. So let me give you another word that maybe there is less wiggle room for the would-be lawyers in our midst and that word is love.
Even if folks don’t want to buy in to having a redemptive role outside of saving souls, they can’t argue with the fact that God has a purpose for their lives. If we are obedient and not rebellious, we should pursue understanding why it is God put us here and how is it exactly that we “glorify” Him to the best of our ability? Anything less than loving God with all our heart is simply sin because it is a command and not a suggestion. The second most important commandment per Jesus is we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, which has a redemptive value to it by its very nature since out of love we are concerned with their wellbeing and want to see an exchange take place from being where they are to being where they could be in God. So it’s ALL about love and love is that weapon against which Satan has no defense. So whether we are comfortable or not with the word “redeem”, we’d better be with the word “love”.
So the command being love your neighbor, how do you as a leader love your neighbor at your highest level of influence? For did not God make you who you are, give you the influence/power He has given you and sent you to this geographic location at this moment in history to love your neighbor? He put it another way in Jeremiah 29:7 when He told His children to seek the wellbeing (shalom) of the city to which He sent them. He is no less purposeful with us today.
So coming to grips with the fact He did send you here, how do you max out on your potential as a leader to love Him and your neighbor?
The power of SALLT is simply the laser focus on our living at our highest impact in the eyes of God. This is the calculus of knowing who our Father is and what He is willing to do through us as His children whom He purposefully sent here as leaders. The culture of a city should be radically influenced because the Christians are here in a unified determination to love the neighbors living there.
The Bible says that without vision, the people perish. We saw with William Wilberforce and his friends what it looks like to demonstrate a vision for loving God and their neighbors with all their hearts. They strategically loved their country in the name of Jesus to the point of a nation being transformed. Leaders come to know God’s vision by hanging close enough to Him in relationship such that they can hear His instructions and lead their followers into the land of promise assigned them.
The single most dangerous thing we can do for our city as Christian leaders is to be the answer to Christ’s prayer in John 17 and to lead our brethren to “be one”.
So whether you hesitate at using the word “redeem” or not, you are commanded by God to love. Imagine the power in a city where Christian leaders like you are actively asking God “How do I love my neighbor at my highest level of influence you’ve given me and how do I do that in unity with my brethren?”
The answer to that question is a life extraordinarily well lived and a city utterly transformed.
President and CEO
Salt and Light Leadership Training, Inc. (SALLT)