Life as a leader will be tough, and will demand self-discipline. But while it’s realistic to admit that it’s tough, it’s downright stupid to make it impossible.
How do we do that? By taking on a role we were never intended to play.
For instance, I frequently meet Christian leaders who think that their role is to be simultaneously a focus of unity, and a focus of truth. They enjoy their role as a teacher and herald, but they also enjoy being the hub of everything, and hope to be the person that everybody looks to with fondness and loyalty.
If you think about that even briefly, you must realise you can’t do both. The moment I declare something as truth, I have declared something else as non-truth. And someone will disagree with me. Which means I have ceased to be a focus of unity. Because I’m a focus of truth.
We are social beings, so we don’t like it when people disagree with us and don’t like us. And since disagreements are visible and public, we feel bad when other people notice that we are not a focus of unity any more.
So we end up downplaying the truth (which is invisible) for the purpose of unity (which is visible). And as we shift the focus of unity onto something which doesn’t divide, we will become irritated at those who stress truth.
If we stand back we’ll see why – and it’s a relief. The Lord Jesus is both the focus of unity and the focus of truth, and he does so perfectly. That’s because, from his perspective, they are the same. No-one disagrees with him over his truth, and so there is perfect unity around it, and him.
Our difficulty is therefore that we don’t see his truth from his perspective, perfectly. If we did we would agree, with each other and with him. His truth produces unity. Notice, not the other way around: unity does not produce truth, either in heaven or on earth.
Our most uniting work, therefore, is to teach his truth as best we can, as faithfully as we can, to the best of our ability. When people disagree with Jesus, that is not our problem. But when we disagree with each other over what his truth actually says, or how it fits together, then we go back to our Bibles, on our knees, and seek further wisdom. And at that point, because we are both submitting to his Word and seeking to understand it better, we are more united.
If people disagree with what the Bible says, don’t take it personally, and don’t feel a failure as a leader because you have caused disunity. You haven’t. The Lord Jesus has, and it is in his role and gift to do so.
So when you cause rumbles by teaching what is on the pages of Scripture, to the best of a common, orthodox, understanding, don’t panic, and don’t fear criticism. You’ll get criticism whatever you do. You might as well get it for the right things.
Just stop trying to be Jesus.