In the years I have under my belt of being called to working intentionally and directly with people, I have discovered a quirk in my character. I don’t believe this trait is rare; it is true of many leaders and pastors – but it is not something that we rush to discuss openly. It has taken me time to realise that this quirk is not strange, or an obstacle I need to overcome to be able to love the person in front of me – quite the opposite, it means that I love the people in front of me deeply.
Here it is, this is my confession:
I am an introvert, who loves people.
In all of the personality and leadership-style tests that I have done, I have come out as a people-orientated, caring, loving, host. And this is totally true: I absolutely love treating people in a way that leaves them with no doubt that they are loved, that they are welcome, and that they are a part of a family. I love to be the host of the party, the friend to the friendless, the one who is kind to the people that would never expect kindness.
And yet, I am an introvert. I know that I need time to rest and recharge so that I can go out and be the best version of me that I can be. I know that long days full of people, which are quite often what my job brings, sometimes leave me feeling exhausted. I know that my best times with God have been totally alone, climbing a hill or walking down the river.
But here’s what I have found: His calling trumps my personality. The calling on my life – on all of our lives, whether or not you would say that you are in a position of leadership – is to be the love of God to the people around us. We are all called to trust God, to do good and to help others – and, when we are doing this with the presence of God inside of us, this means dying to ourselves and letting his light shine out of us. My job and my ministry means that it is literally my job to love people – and I am so thankful for that – but this is our calling as believers: when we say Yes to Jesus, we don’t get to keep him to ourselves.
Both 1 Corinthians and Ephesians are books that Paul wrote to the early church – and while there were some differences in the bulk of the letter (some people think that the Ephesians were one of Paul’s favorites, as their letter is full of love and blessing, whereas the Corinthians’ letter could be more of a telling off), both letters start in a really similar way:
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
And in Ephesians 1:4-14:
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us…
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Know Your Identity
The defining message we find in these passages is: “In Him” – when Jesus died for you – you were chosen, you were made holy and blameless and you were picked out to be His son. When this happened, your life and your character was enriched in every way, because it is now not your own life inside of you, but His. This is your identity; it is the thing that we need to know before we can do anything – our identity is found in the one who made us, who chose us before we were born, and who redeemed us and marked us in Him with a seal. I am an introvert, who loves people – I am living wholly as the person that God created me to be, while being wholly hidden in Him, and loving people with the everlasting love of God.
Whether it is a job or not, the calling that we have to love others requires us to stand firm and to keep on going. It is so easy to take our eyes off of God, and to doubt the identity that we have in Him: to feel that we are not doing enough, not good enough, not loving enough, but this is God’s perspective – He is standing firm for us and He is faithful – and when our ability to love comes from the power of God, we do not lack. We have been enriched in every way, and we do not lack any spiritual gift, because it is not our power and ability that flows from us, but His.
Hear this truth, the words that God is singing over you today: In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. He saw you and he wanted you, and he has adopted you into sonship, to be the praise of His glorious grace.
2. Let Your Hope Extend to Them
When we live in grace and truly know the identity that we have in God, we know that it is not our works that changes hearts, but Jesus’ love. This is the prayer that Paul prayed over the Ephesian church:
“I pray that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” Ephesians 1:18-19
We have the blessing and the honor of living in glorious relationship with our Father; we know this hope to which he has called us, we have the riches of his inheritance and we have seen his incomparably great power for us to believe.
But the people around us, the people who we are called to love, don’t have this; and this is their biggest need. We cannot change their hearts, we do not have the power in our own might and strength to give them a relationship with Jesus, but this is the point: we can simply demonstrate Jesus to them in love, and pray this over them: that the eyes of their heart might be enlightened, that they might know this hope.
I see all kinds of hopelessness and pain, and it is not my job to remove that – but I have a God who has removed all of my hopelessness and my pain, and I pray that the hope that I have might overflow to them; that they might see the love of God in me, and that their eyes might be enlightened to know the hope, the riches of his glorious inheritance and his incomparably great power for those who believe.
The greatest thing that God has taught me about leadership: it’s more about Him than it is about me. All we can do, is trust God, do good and love people; the rest is up to Him.