What do the Bible, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and A. W. Tozer1 have in common? They all say that we become what we worship, for good or bad. We must therefore be careful about how we think of God, because our primary image of him will affect our attitudes, decisions, and behaviours. Ultimately, the way we see God will determine the way we lead:
- If we see God as a harsh taskmaster, then we will likely be a harsh taskmaster.
- If we see God as a cosmic police officer watching to catch us doing wrong, then we will tend to be a police officer.
- If we believe in a compassionate God, then we can be expected to be compassionate.
Psalm 100:5 is a beautiful description of God, which corrects faulty conceptions of who God is. It should form our primary image of the Lord God.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:5 (NIV)
What a great summary of God’s relationship with you and me! But as much as it speaks to God’s relationship with us, it also speaks to our relationship with our employees. Let’s unpack the verse.
The text uses God’s covenantal name Yahweh (translated as Lord), so right away we are reminded of God’s covenant with his people.
It’s crucial to understand that this covenant wasn’t negotiated by God with humanity; it was unilaterally crafted by God at his own initiative and on his own terms. And because God sent his Son to fulfill humanity’s obligations under the covenant, we don’t even have to do anything to get the benefits of the covenant, other than accept what Jesus did for us.
But far more important to us than the terms of the covenant is the love which motivated God to create a covenant in the first place. God’s love for humanity will last forever, and God will faithfully uphold his part of the covenant forever. What an amazing commitment God made to us for our benefit! But then it gets even better.
The psalm describes God as good.
I like the way Thomas Cranmer translated the Hebrew word for good in the Book of Common Prayer. He wrote “The Lord is gracious.”
I heard someone say recently, “God’s grace would be easier for us all to receive if we believed we had earned it, but then it wouldn’t be grace!”
The truth is that God did not wait until we were worthy to receive his gift, but he gave it to us specifically because we did not deserve it and could do nothing to be deserving of it.
The God we worship
Psalm 100, and many other verses throughout Scripture, tell us that the God we worship is the God who generously and sacrificially loves those who do not deserve to be loved at all. God made a covenant for relationship and invites all humanity to sign on to it with their admission paid for by God himself through the obedience of his Son.
This is the God we worship and this is the Person we want to become more like. Do we really believe God is gracious? Then we should be gracious. And here’s where the rubber hits the road from a leadership perspective.
God took the initiative to love when we were still unlovely. All Christians should demonstrate generous and sacrificial love like this, even to those who do not deserve to be loved by us. As Christian leaders, this is particularly essential in our relationship with the staff and volunteers who work for us. If you want to be “Christ to your neighbour” (as Luther famously put it), be “Christ to your employees,” by being gracious towards them even when it’s challenging. Exemplary Christian leaders must do their best to love like Jesus does. Love your team members (and team members – love your leaders).
A gracious leader:
- still has to deal with tough issues, including employee performance issues, but they do what needs to be done from a spirit of love and compassion
- sets high standards while helping staff learn and grow to live up to them
- keeps the team’s welfare always in mind
- is humble and confident enough to allow team members to be in the spotlight
- cheers employees on
- is aware of their own limitations and knows when to defer to staff
Now go ahead, love your team!
- “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.” From The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1 ↩