The Naked and Broken Leader 5.1

Leading by Being Led 5.1

Follow God’s example in everything you do,
because you are his dear children. 
Live a life filled with love for others,
following the example of Christ,
who loved you
and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins.
– Paul, Ephesians 5:1-2

         Henri Nouwen suggested that true leadership would by necessity demand agape love for Christ.  “If there is any focus that the Christian leader of the future will need,” Nouwen wrote, “it is the discipline of dwelling in the presence of the One who keeps asking us, ‘Do you love me?  Do you love me?  Do you love me?’.” {1}   Such a demanding and revealing question from the Leader of leaders forces disclosure and authenticity before God. 
          Certainly, this threefold questioning from Jesus brought Peter to an honest and submissive posture.  His third reply to Jesus, in fact, was much more honest: “Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love (phileo) you.” {2} From Peter’s grieved heart comes the admission that Jesus is the one who knows where his heart is.   It’s as if Peter came out of hiding and confessed to Jesus the truth (that Jesus already knew): That Peter was a naked man before the King of kings, that Peter loved Jesus- but not enough, and that Peter’s heart was grieved because it was so broken.
          Such an admission before God is the inauguration of agape-love in a leader’s life.  God is seeking a “broken vessel” so that he can bring restoration and instill true love patterned after his own.  As Gene Edwards suggested, God wants very much to have “men and women who would live in pain.” {3}   God wants to reshape men and women into the leaders he desires for his glory and for the sake of others.  In Peter’s case, God wanted to restore him and give him the onerous task of shepherding his church.
          Spiritual leadership involves the painful process of authenticity with Jesus.  As Peter let himself be laid bare before the Lord, as the stitches were being sown into Peter’s faith and heart, deep breaths were most likely taken between the sobbing tears.  But the examination and the extra hurt brings healing.  It is in the willingness to be exposed and in the honesty of brokenness that healing may occur. 
          Kevin Mannoia suggests that true leadership involves the humbling of our will into an obedient posture before God.  Humbling, after all, “requires a bowing or breaking of the will.”  In the humbling process, “we submit our will to the Father’s will for us.  Anything less than a full, uncompromising submission to God preempts the possibility of His will being accomplished in and through us.” {4}   And so it is of necessity that a true leader will have a “broken heart” that is through the restorative love of Christ “wrapped in victorious joy” and a “peace that passes human understanding.” {5}   But such a peace is obtained only after one is willing to follow the example of Christ’s love “to the testing place of Calvary” – a lesson Peter had to learn after the fact.
          Allowing Jesus to lead the way in our lives paves the path for the exercise of spiritual leadership.  But the same formational process that exposes the foundational principles of nakedness and brokenness, suggest that following the way of Jesus is a difficult path.  At the moment Peter begins to bow to Jesus’ questions of devotion, Peter is challenged to follow Jesus to the most naked, broken life possible. 

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