Leadership Courage Series
#2: The Heart to Lead
This series is about courage… living with heart. It’s written as an invitation for you, as a leader, to live and lead with your heart fully engaged. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christ-followers in the commercial and cultural center, known as Corinth:
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.” -2 Corinthians 6:11-13
As in all affairs of the heart, there is risk. To me it seems one question is always: ”Who goes first?” Who gets to be first to love, to risk, to reach, to be vulnerable?
Paul settles the issue for those of us in ministry: I get to go first! In doing so, I model the way of love for all those around. “We have opened wide our hearts to you”, Paul says. “We are not withholding our affection from you…”
Of how many in Christian leadership could that be said?
How generously, how obviously, how daringly do we love?
How careful are we to not withhold our affection from those we lead?
Most pastors would probably say they love their people well, sacrifice for them, work tirelessly, always try to be accessible, etc. Yet, Paul speaks of his heart being wide open to them.
A heart wide-open! A big, gaping opening that can be exploited, disappointed, rejected, maligned. And, not just the young, wide-eyed church planters that haven’t yet taught themselves to distrust their congregations and to bury their affections behind a mask of professional, religious niceness.
I mean you: the veteran of betrayals, abuses, attacks, and back-stabbings… by those who you’ll no doubt find in Heaven. You, who’ve been around the block a few times. “We’ve not withheld our affection…”.
Heck, how challenging has it been to keep your heart wide open to your spouse?? What struggles have you encountered to not withhold your affection from your own wife or husband??
How stingy are you with your heart, these days?
Francis Frangipane asks in The Three Battlegrounds: “Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring, and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love is. A measurable decrease in your ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing within you…”
Paul, with all that was at stake in Corinth, shepherded his own heart so that it remained open wide, and his affections so that they were not withheld from them. So rigorously and openly did he give his heart to them that he was able to call them to reciprocate—his leverage coming from his having gone first!
He called them to a “fair exchange” of affections.
I wonder if, on those occasions when I have been stunned by the absence of affection I’ve encountered it could actually have represented a “fair exchange” of the hiddenness-of-heart and the stinginess of affection that I’d sown into the relationship. I too have trained myself to keep my heart carefully cloistered away where it can’t be hurt—much. Yet, this protection comes at a great price. As humans, let alone Christ-followers, we were made for love.
Made to love.
Built to access and share affection readily, easily, generously.
Like little kids do. Remember?
Living with and among imperfect human beings, I’ve been hurt and I’ve seen others hurt, over the years. In the movies and on TV we see characters that give the appearance of being deeply satisfied, fully alive, and relationally connected without the risk of hurt and heartache that love requires. Smooth operators. Cool customers. Cold lovers?
As a young man, I taught myself to be in life that way. Denying what I was, and what I was made for ‘till Christ captured my heart and taught me another way: a risky way, a vulnerable, dangerous way. Since then, there’s been an accordion-like opening and closing, expanding and compressing of the affections my heart was meant to exude.
This past decade I’ve been intentionally entering the rigor to open my heart wide and to war against the regular impulses to withhold my affection from those I influence. Imperfectly and purposefully I’m giving myself to this dangerous and delightful way of life. Calling others to engage in a “fair exchange” of affection.
Leveraging your love with them.