Today I want to continue a series about what it looks like to lead as a Christian in today’s culture. We first looked at the importance of starting with looking at our own heart and what we are really all about. Then we looked at the importance of defining and living out of the narrative of God’s story vs. narratives dictated by current culture. Next we took an inward turn to look at taking care of our own business first.
Today I want to look at leading with Jesus and His truth.
Now that sounds sort of obvious. But I honestly don’t see a lot of it right now. What I see is a lot of Christians using Jesus to back up their side. I also see a lot of Christians saying true things about Jesus, but only the parts that they want to virtue signal with. I also think there are a lot of Christians who are sort of fixated on a particular part of Jesus and are just trying to follow that one part.
Finally I think there are people who are trying to show that Jesus is relevant to all that is going on right now in an attempt to win particular people over, or perhaps keep particular people from leaving Christianity.
But frankly this is creating confusion and it’s all hijacking Jesus. Now understand I’m not accusing everyone, or anyone in particular, of meaning to do that (although there are certainly people that are). It also risks splitting the body of Christ in places it just doesn’t have to be split.
What often ends up happening is that Jesus ends up being the support for a truth rather than the truth itself.
Here is sort of what I mean. We say things like Jesus is pro social justice. Or Jesus is pro life. Or Jesus is the most inclusive person ever. Jesus wants to take care of the poor. I could go on and on here. Usually this is in response to an event and not a leading thought to begin with.
In some ways all of the above are true. But there are several problems when we lead in this way.
First, we may need to check our motives. Are we using Jesus to advance a particular political agenda or view. That is not the same as starting with Jesus’ truth and then going from there. If our first goal isn’t the whole of Jesus then we are in trouble. That’s not Christian leadership.
Secondly these phrases have a lot of different meanings to different people. Saying that Jesus is pro social justice for example. What exactly does social justice mean at this point in our culture? You probably have an answer to that. But the problem is that so do a lot of other people, and it’s most likely not the same. In both good and bad ways. Are we talking about the social teaching of the Catholic Church? Are we talking about being a Social Justice Warrior so to speak? Are we talking about working in my neighborhood or what the government should compel us to do? I don’t care where you fall here. That’s not my point. My point is simply that that phrase means different things at this point.
The same is true about pro life. What does that mean right now? Which life? Jesus is inclusive? What does that mean? Is He inclusive in the way the world means it? What does it mean to care about the poor? Do we have to do that in a particular way? We could do this for every slogan and phrase that is hot right now.
My suggestion is to stop leading by the world’s terms. I’m not suggesting that we can’t all have opinions on that. Not at all. But what I am saying is that if we want to lead towards Jesus first and foremost we should just lead with Jesus.
Don’t say Jesus is pro social justice. Instead teach what Jesus says about loving the least. Talk about what Jesus teaches about justice. Don’t say Jesus is pro life. Share what Jesus teaches about the sanctity of all life. Don’t say that Jesus is inclusive. Say what Jesus teaches about inviting all to follow Him. And you might mention that in other ways He is actually exclusive. After all He is both.
Which is the point here. Jesus, His life, and teaching is bigger than our narrow political and confusing boxes.
The reality is that in a world that says there is no absolute truth we have access to the truth itself. But we have to lead with it and all of it. We need to step out of the boxes and then back into the world offering the whole truth – that is Jesus. Don’t lead with the world’s parameters. Lead with Jesus and what he says, regardless of what “side” that puts you on in a particular situation.
If we don’t do that what happens is that we become followers of the world’s categories. That is not Christian leadership.
To sum up;
Don’t use Jesus to back up your own agenda.
Don’t try to fit Jesus into the parameters that the world has set.
Lead with by sharing what Jesus teaches period – without having to use the current terms that might box Him in.
Lead with all of what Jesus says. We are leading people to the whole truth, not just the popular or particular truth in the moment.