CORINTHIANS 13, the very first book, holds the holy spiritual gifts of the Lord on either sides, i.e. chapters 12 and 14. The spiritual gifts — which are given and need only be claimed — are not from ourselves, lest we boast. They are from God for the Kingdom’s use, and not for our own gain at all.
What sets apart our appropriate use of the gifting we’ve been given? L O V E, love.
We’re given to a spirit of conquest or of cooperation.
If we ply our gifts in a loving way we behave in a spirit of cooperation: others come first. Others always come first. Love looks outwardly. But if we don’t practice our gifts that way we pursue the unworthy ideal: conquest: the building and making of a kingdom of our own choosing and design. Such a kingdom is not built in God’s name, it has no Kingdom purpose, and that kingdom will be built in vain, and may well come ultimately to fall into ruin. (Although, it’s fascinating how things not honouring to God can still often be instruments for his glory.)
When others come first, which is to choose to build the Kingdom, albeit slowly, we may seem to be frustrated at every point. Just getting people onto the same page, in the spirit of gentleness, compassion, and mutual respect, may seem such a taxing endeavour. But unless everyone swims in roughly the same direction, there’s no progress. And still there needs to be plenty of room for diversity and even dissenters. Love encounters, and is able to accommodate, much opposition. Out of opposition, a patient response of gracious poise showers all in the glory of God. Out of opposition is the test of conquest and cooperation. Opposition, and not agreement, reveals leadership’s motives. God uses opposition. He proves the leader through opposition.
The true test of a leader is how they respond to opposition. This test will show if they’re conquest-oriented or cooperation-oriented.
If ours is a ministry of reconciliation, within the Lord’s purpose in reconciling the whole world under himself, we’ll be avidly of the cooperation camp — embracing of opposition, seeking to learn, and to win friends of enemies, even as we bear the costs ourselves. We’ll find innovative ways of accommodating people, of bringing people along, of turning people toward love, of modelling the sort of humility Christ showed when he went to the cross on our behalf; that is, to lose is to gain.
The underpinning of conquest and cooperation is love; love is lacking in and possibly missing from the former, yet love is to the glory of God in the latter. Only by love can the glory of God in myriad manifestation be seen.
Whose kingdom are you building in your life: the Lord’s or your own?
How does God choose leaders in the eternal realm? How lovingly do we apply our leadership here on earth?
This, ultimately, is the question for every leader; for every aspiring leader… for leadership in the heavenly realm: is my goal for leadership one of conquest or cooperation?
Is it ‘my way or the highway’ or is it ‘God’s way and the die (to self) way’?
© 2015 Steve Wickham.