Great leaders are born out of suffering and opposition (see 1 Thessalonians 2:2). In our Western culture, we tend to think they come from affluence and support, but the Bible reveals a far different dynamic, one that teaches the strongest steel is made in the hottest fire. The Apostle Paul communicated four characteristics of a fully surrendered leader juxtaposed with four corresponding traits of a counterfeit one.
Fully surrendered leaders embrace gentleness rather than harshness: “But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7 NIV 1984). Paul continued: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Gentleness leads by permission; harshness leads by the abuse of position: “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority” (1 Thessalonians 2:6 NASB). Authority, baros in Greek, meant “weight.” The NIV translates barosas burden, a picture of scales weighing one side much heavier than the other. Paul had once weighed his authority higher than the value God had placed on those he intimidated and oppressed.
Paul alluded to his transformation from abusing positional authority while persecuting Christ-followers (see Acts 9:1-2; Philippians 3:6) to a heart filled with gentleness, one that disciples would choose to follow. The sin Paul originally committed with a pure conscience (see Acts 23:1; 2 Timothy 1:3), he would later describe as blaspheme (see 1 Timothy 1:13) because he learned that God was indeed gentle (see Exodus 34:6-8; 1 Kings 19:12; Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 42:14; 66:13; Matthew 11:29; Galatians 5:22-23). Contrastingly, Satan lusts for positional authority he can abuse (see Acts 10:38).
Are your words gentle or harsh? When you parent your children, do you abuse your positional authority or do you lead with power under the Spirit’s control? When you communicate with your spouse, are you kind or rude? During an annual review at work, do you reveal the gentle heart of Christ or your own identity apart from Him. Titles, positions, accolades, and achievement can drive us to be harsh, especially with those closest to us when we desire expedient solutions to our perceived problems. This week, surrender your harshness to God. He will restore your soul with His, reconnect your relationships with those around you, and then use you to renew their relationships with Him.