Monday, July 8, 2013

Leadership Forgiveness

Luke 23:34 (KJV)  Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
We mentioned, last time, that we had the privilege of meeting Richard Wurmbrand and spending some extra time with him.  It wasn’t because I was anything special.  But God engineered it so I’d learn some things close to His heart.  And that’s where our starting verse comes in.

I was pretty much a baby Christian at the time I met Pastor Wurmbrand.  I didn’t know much doctrine and didn’t comprehend a whole lot beyond the crucifixion, God loved me, and I loved Him.  As it turns out, what Richard Wurmbrand showed me was that, expanded a little, that was the crux of Christianity.  And we’re supposed to not only receive God’s love, but pass it along.  The greatest example is in the verse we began with.

Since we hadn’t done a leadership post in some time, we wanted to do that with this post.  Besides a Christian life lesson, today’s topic does have important leadership implications.  Our verse has Jesus on the Cross, beaten prior to crucifixion, spat on, lied about.  This is the man who gathered the apostles, is the reason many of us hold the spiritual beliefs we do.  And what is His leadership example?  It’s to forgive those who hurt Him.  And even explain to the Father that they didn’t understand the full breadth and depth of what they were doing.

One of the things that comes back to me from my brief time with Richard Wurmbrand was the fact that his attitude and thinking also reflected that verse.  His desire wasn’t retribution on his jailers and torturers.  He wanted to see all of them gloriously saved and becoming his brothers in Christ!  Wow!!

It took years for that to sink in enough that it became part of my core values.  The seeds were in that brief 30 minutes or less with Richard Wurmbrand.  My original pastor in a local church in this ministry and our ministry’s founding pastor had, I’m sure, already said the same things in words.  But the thing that made it reality was seeing it in how Pastor Wurmbrand had incorporated it into living.  It wasn’t just a concept or words, it was real.

And that’s where the leadership part comes in.  I’ve written, before, about how fear can radically change our thinking.  Unforgiveness can muddy the thought process, about as well.  Think about what it does.
  1. Unforgiveness has us thinking in terms of retribution toward the person(s) we don’t forgive.  It may be unconscious, but it’s still there.
  2. That unforgiveness and attitude of retribution will affect how we deal with them.  It will cloud our judgment in how we handle circumstances and people.
  3. That muddied thinking will spill over into how we deal with other people and situations.
  4. Medically, there are various stress related symptoms that come out of unforgiveness.
  5. We probably won’t recognize it’s happening and deny it if someone points it out to us.
  6. This is the most important.  Unforgiveness will make our thinking deviate from the mind of Christ.

Our words aren’t going to be echoed in our actions.  As Christian leaders, that sends a mixed message.  More mature believers will sort that out and determine what to ignore.  But that kind of leadership will give younger or untaught Christians the wrong foundational understanding.

There’s an even worse consequence to living in unforgiveness.  If much of what we communicate is negative, we’re only going to attract “followers” who either don’t know any better or want to live in that same negativity and unforgiveness.  The problem is always going to be attributed to bad situations or what others say and do. 

It doesn’t take this crew very long to figure out that God has allowed these situations.  But the problem becomes a lack of trust for God.  How could He allow that to happen?  And it can be so subtle that it doesn’t even show up as a conscious thought.  But Satan has done his job.  There’s a believer who now doubts God, even if he doesn’t consciously realize it.  If that believer is even indirectly a leader of others, Satan gets to poison the spiritual minds of a multitude through the leader’s example.  Remember that, if there’s a variation between what we say and do, people are going to focus on that difference and how we live it out.

So, how do we fix it?  There are a number of things that work into our solution.
  • Prayer.  Going to God to fix our own wrong attitudes is important.  It takes a humility that opens the door for spiritual healing and it recognizes that our own efforts won’t cut it.
  • Be in the Word.  The Bible is God’s medicine for our spiritual illness.  God could say, “Take two verses and call me in the morning.”.  Actually, it might be one verse or a series of verses, or a whole book.  But the Word is where we’ll find our healing.
  • Examine ourselves.  When I’m helping someone spiritually, if things don’t go as expected, I’ll check with other counselors to make sure I didn’t miss something.  Unless it’s obvious the problem is their refusal to take counsel.  In which case, I need to to be in prayer for God to open their spiritual eyes and guide them to healing.  I can’t complain or be unforgiving because that would definitely make me the problem.
When we’re thinking with God, we can forgive because we’ve been forgiven.  Even more, we can forgive because He forgives.  We forgive because that’s what real leaders do.  And we’re leaders because we all influence someone, even if it’s just one person.

Are we leading with forgiveness, today?

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