If you want to lead, then you’ve got to love.
As kids, every week after church softball or volleyball, my dad brought us to Friendly’s® for ice cream sundaes. We’d order Jim Dandies and Banana Splits—the most expensive dishes on the dessert menu. My dad always got the Brownie Sundae. For me and my three brothers, our visits to Friendly’s was about the treats; for my dad, it was about us being together. Working multiple jobs, he treasured those times. My dad’s life exhibited a pattern of humble, sacrificial love.
Nowadays, my wife and I have a short list of three actions we try to do every day with each of our kids: pray, hug, and make a happy memory. At night, we sometimes review our three–point checklist, while there’s still time.
Know–how, skills, credentials, and degrees listed on a résumé may impress people or qualify you for a job; but they fall short of winning people’s loyalty and affection, and they can’t transform their lives. For that, you need to show love—humble, fervent, sacrificial, everyday love. It is love that “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8) and “casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Even holding a PhD or a black belt in Karate cannot do that. We can fall flat by missing the reason (love) and the purpose (others) for personal leadership development.
Don’t get me wrong; having a baseline of knowledge and skills is essential for any job. I spend my time and energy developing training programs to nurture leaders for Salvation Army service. However, love makes us seek continual growth and competence for the sake of others.
Learning Scripture, languages, soccer, ballet, math, or management requires hard work. But, in moments of clarity, I remember what’s most important. If I could be excellent at just one thing, I would want to excel at loving people.
Matthew 22:34–40 has been called “The Great Commandment.” It’s actually one iteration of the love theme that Jesus repeats in all four New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). That makes it important – actually great. But, it’s not just in the Gospels. Jesus is quoting from the Old Testament Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18); Paul asserts it in Galatians 5:14—“The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Who has gone to a Christian wedding without hearing someone read 1 Corinthians 13 (Paul’s Ode to Love)? It’s affirmed throughout the New Testament.
This Commandment has two parts; love the Lord and love your neighbor. I believe they’re intertwined. Our love for others is a reflection of God’s love for people and a demonstration of our love for God. That’s what 1 John 4:16–21 suggests—“We love because he first loved us.”
Both the logic for love and the capacity to love originates in God. As Paul said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5:22). Although love can sometimes be winsome and rewarding, it is often stark and costly. We don’t use love to gain anything or feign love to abuse or to manipulate.
When empowered by the Spirit, love is transformative for all involved. Relationships become a ground for sharing the gospel and for experiencing the gospel. Love is truly The Maker’s mark of a Christian leader. By the grace of God, the virtue of Christ Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit, let us be excellent at love. Though too often neglected in a “me first” world, knowing how to love and being willing to do it is pivotal for leaders.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
by Isaiah Allen