While we wont ever display the perfect love that God does, this is an important measuring stick when deciding how we are to treat the people we serve.
If we do love and respect His children, then God can trust us with ‘feeding’ them. As Jesus told Peter:
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. ~ John 21: 16b (NIV)
It is interesting to note that Jesus used the measure of Peter’s love for Him as to how much he was to love His ‘sheep’ - more on this later.
After all, would you leave your children in the care of someone who does not love them: someone with selfish ambition who simply sees your children as being there to serve their pleasures?
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. ~ John 13:34 (ESV)
To love one another is a commandment - not a nice idea. If you do not have this love in your heart, you need to seek the Lord for a revelation of His love.
How do we nurture God’s Children?
As a parent’s desire is to nurture their own child, bringing them to maturity (a maturity where by the child loves and respects themselves so that they can now also love and respect others), so our heart as church leaders should be to nurture God’s children.
Let me ask you, “How much respect and love would you have for yourself if all I did was continually point out your flaws and treat you harshly every time you made a mistake?”
Some parents think that this is what parenting is all about - it took me years to ‘recover’ from my father’s parenting: the constant put downs, beatings and belittling insults. I grew up feeling unworthy of love and of respect. Someone literally had to tell me that I had the right to be loved and respected. What is more, it wasn’t until I had fully accepted that I had these rights that I was able to give them away (give myself as a living sacrifice ~ Romans 12:1) in order to serve God.
You cannot give away something you do not have.
Now I am sure most people who parent this way are doing it out of love - or even fear for the future of their children. More over, when their tactics keep on failing it may be that they have no answers - no alternatives that make any sense - so they just carry on doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result.
However, we all know that this is the definition of insanity. We all need God to fill us with His spirit as:
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
…and we absolutely need our sanity when dealing with teenagers.
Often when we are parenting our children - unless your children are saints - they can treat us very badly. However, we still continue to love them and nurture them - wanting the very best for them - despite what they say to us or how they can treat us at times.
Love Them As He Has Loved Us
Let us not love as the world has loved us, but instead according to the love God has shown to us.
Do we show them the same patience, genteelness, compassion and love as the Father has shown us?
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
Whose job is it to convict the sinner?
Why do we judge the difunctional children of God when they also mistreat us? If someone is in church it is because they have accepted that they are a sinner. This means your church is full of sinners - get used to it! It doesn’t mean that you do not have a duty to love them as God does - they are His precious children that he has entrusted to you.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you ~ Luke 37-38 (ESV)
What many people do not understand is that the person who ‘beats up’ the sinner more than anyone is the sinner themselves. So what benefit is there in adding to their already deep wounds? Will pointing out to them that they are full of sin somehow make them a better person?
It is the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours, to convict people of their sins and of judgement - and he is very good at doing His job!
8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: ~ John 16:8 (NKJV)
God is no respecter of persons
So what is our heart towards the people we serve? Do we love them as God loves us? Do we honour and respect them - favouring no one above the other?
God is no respecter of persons, so we need to also not put some before others in our hearts and with our actions. We are all one body.
What is the state of our heart?
Do we work hard to nurture our people to love themselves - so that they may begin to be free from self hatred and fear of what others must think of them? Are we truly wanting to see them free from sin - not through a system of punishments and rewards, but through a growing sense of their own worth and place in Christ?
Persecution WILL come
Or are we upset that they don’t respect and love us for the myriad of sacrifices we make for them?
20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. ~ John 15:20 (NKJV)
11"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you ~ Matthew 5: 11-12 (NIV)
Our reward is in heaven! Don’t strive for a reward here on earth, or you will strive in vain and may end up with no reward at all.
In what way do we love?
Is the love we have for the people we serve ‘Phileo’ love - one that demands a reciprocal payment for it to continue - or ‘Agape’ love - unconditional love: expecting nothing in return?
Do we need a break?
If our heart is hardened towards the people, or if we no longer love or respect the people we serve, then maybe it is time to take a break. In this way we can spend time being feed in order to be refreshed in the Lord instead of simply operating in our own strength.
It is important for all servants of the Lord to re-examine why they are leaders from time to time; who they are truly leading (i.e. who is following their lead); and what their intentions/aspirations for leadership are - i.e. our primary motivations. If the answer is not, “Because we truly love the people we serve as God has loved us.” then it is time to take a much needed break and seek help in restoring your relationship with the Lord.