Jesus is clear. Leaders in His kingdom stand in contrast to leaders of the world. While the latter “lord’s over,” the former serves under. This is the personhood of Jesus leadership. But what, specifically, are the marks of a person who serves. I suggest four attributes of character: humility, courage, integrity and justice. Let’s describe each briefly.
Humility: Lordship in heart
Humility is contrition, a kind of faith in the heart. Humility is common to many biblical leaders. Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Joseph, Rahab, Hannah, Samuel, David, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others all were broken either through sin, failure, hardship, testing, discipline, or suffering. Brokenness is often the pathway to humility. “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness . . .For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Cor. 12:9-10). Humility is the constant awareness, attitude, and life practice that all a leader is, and does, is nothing apart from God’s grace. It is the emptying of oneself fully to God’s reign and purpose in one’s life. As humility is inward, courage is outward.
Courage: Lordship in action
Courage presents the opposing balance to brokenness. While brokenness recognizes that the leader can do nothing apart from Christ, courage is a constant awareness, attitude, and life practice that a leader can do all things through Christ’s strength. Courage is a boldness of heart and mind which enables a leader to encounter danger and difficulty with confidence and conviction, not in one’s own strength, but in the strength of Christ. Courage means taking faith-filled risk, grounded in a hope and a trust that God is greater. Humility and courage must be the combined character traits of every spiritual leader. Humility without courage is fatalism. Courage without humility is arrogance.
Integrity: Lordship in community
As the focus of brokenness and courage tends to be on the leader, integrity and justice will look at our relationship with others. First we look inward. Integrity is far more than honesty. It is the constant interest in, and action taken, based upon the needs of others. Integrity is oneness, a collective commitment to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4) It is a leader and community becoming “of one mind,” or “of one accord.” The English word for “integrity” comes from the word “integer” referring to a “whole number,” a “complete entity,” or something “undivided.” In biblical terms, integrity is being undivided in our relationship with God and others. Marriage and family are frequent metaphors for the church in Scripture. As husband and wife become one, so the church is called to oneness. As children reflect the character of mother and father, so the church is formed by the character of leaders. This is virtue and skill. Leaders show integrity as they practice fidelity in their marriage and home. The assumption is that home and ministry are indelibly linked, a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church. The way a leader leads will form those who follow. Integrity is broken whenever a leader’s needs become primary, over the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the needs of others. This is the root of all leadership failure. But inward looking alone can also become unbalanced. That is why the leader and church must also exhibit justice.
Justice: Lordship in society
Justice embodies the mission and ministry of Jesus who came to serve the poor, the prisoner and oppressed, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) Justice is the outward work of mercy, compassion and moral rightness. In the Christian leader, justice is the quality of heart and action to serve and honor the well-being of the poor, weak and disenfranchised. When the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon asked for a discerning heart “to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” The Lord was pleased with Solomon and gave him wisdom “to administer justice.” (1 Kings 95-28) Note: spiritual wisdom is discernment for administering justice. A wise leader is one who administers justice — discerning right from wrong and defending the weak from the attacks of the strong. Justice, then, balances integrity from faith looking inward (integrity) to faith looking outward (justice). Justice is how the church becomes and displays a community of righteousness. The way a leader and church respond to and address issues like violence, racism and hatred will prove the power of the Gospel. Justice is the crucible of authentic community.
The personhood of Jesus leadership is marked by these virtues: humility, courage, integrity and justice. Balance is vital. Humility without courage produces victims and skepticism. Courage without humility produces arrogance and mere human performance. Integrity (oneness) without justice produces cliques, even cults. Justice without integrity produces self-righteousness. Each in proportion to the other can produce a living community of Christ.
–Jim Van Yperen