My father-in law has always been an exceptional leader. He led as a school principal for over 40 years helping to create environments where students and teachers thrived. For 6 years I experienced this first hand as I inhabited his office with fellow classmates who I tangled with on the playground. Instead of a stern rebuke, which was deserved, he smiled and handed my fellow fighting partner and me a puzzle and said, “When you finish this you can have your recess back.” Even though I despise puzzles to this day it was an ingenious way to restore a relationship as one was forced to work closely with his opponent and by the end a friendship was formed.
Yes, even though I graced the principal office to many times to count I was still allowed to marry his daughter and be apart of the family for almost 30 years. These past few years I have watched my father –in law lead in an unforgettable way. He used to lead literally hundreds of people but now, most of the time, it is down to one, his beloved wife of over 50 years who battles memory loss. Patty and I recently spent a few days with them and we witnessed Ray pouring out unconditional love to Jan in affirming words and countless actions. Just as he did during my elementary school years he teaches how to lead in love in the midst of a battle that won’t be won. He continues to give even when love is not always received or understood.
Watching my father-in law lead in sacrificial love brought to mind one of the greatest passages of leadership in the Bible John 13:1-17, Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. This text starts out by saying:
Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world he now showed them the full extent of His love (vs. 1).
The goal of Jesus’ mission on earth was to bring the Father’s love to an orphan planet. Jesus’ final act of love on the cross was only a day away and yet He takes the time to show the future leaders of the church what Kingdom Leadership looked like. If you want to lead in the Kingdom it will require a love that brings you to your knees-washing the dirty feet of both friend and foe.
As Patty and I watched the second presidential debate I noticed my father-in-law’s hand gently holding his wife’s hand. I thought about the contrast of the world’s view of leadership that promotes power fueled by fear and how the Kingdom of God promotes sacrifice fueled by the by the love of heaven seen best at the cross. When I asked my father-in law how he gets through each day, he said, “Tim, I pray daily for the love of God to fill me with patience and strength to love Jan, and He does.”
As we live in a culture void of Kingdom Leadership, hear the voice of God call us back to the model given to us by Jesus in John 13. May we fervently pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us anew with Heaven’s love to follow Christ’s example.