Paul’s Leadership Style
2. Love-Centered Leadership
Alexander Strauch pointed out that many troubles at Corinth existed due to lack of Christian love. If Corinthians had only loved Paul the way they should have, the awful strife and misunderstanding that marred their relationship would have not occurred.
Even Paul’s rebuke was misunderstood by the Corinthians. Although Paul was compelled to deal firmly with the problem, yet he wanted them to know of his great love for them and his high hopes that they would heed what he had to say. It was important that they be
united in one mind and spirit. The apostle realized that he had been sarcastic with them. He did it not to shame them, but to help them as his beloved children to realize just what they were doing. He justified the role he had taken with the unique relationship he had with them. He was their father in faith. He was the one who brought them out of darkness into light, from the service of Satan to the service of God. They had many pedagogues such as instructors, leaders, helpers and teachers but never had another father. Without pride and conceit Paul urged them to be imitators of him, even as he imitated Christ.
No doubt, love was the bottom line of Paul’s leadership.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul shows us that love is essential. The richest, highest possible attainment in a church are useless without true Christian love. The oratory of men is useless in church without true love. For Paul, love is more essential than prophecy. The bible is full of prophecies but combined they are not as great as love. Love is more essential than mysteries. A knowledge so great that can understand all things is useless without love. Therefore, love is essential than knowledge. Love is also more essential than faith. Faith as a grain of mustard seed would be wonderful, but useless without love.
The local church is a spiritual workshop for the development of agape love. Most controversies in local congregation are produced not primarily by differences over essentials but by unsanctified human ambitions, jealousy and personality clashes. The root of many such situations is spiritual death in individual believers, revealing lamentable immaturity of love. Therefore, the
local congregation is one of the best laboratories in which individual believers can discover their real spiritual emptiness and begin to grow in agape love. This is done by true repentance, humble confession of their sins of jealousy, envy, resentment, among others, and begging forgiveness from one another. This approach in love will result in real growth.
In his book, This Way to Happiness, Clyde Narramore wrote that love is a basic psychological need that surges in the heart of every human being. It is the sweet mystery of life and the entire world is seeking it. Those who have given and accepted love and affection find it easy to love others. They are confident, relaxed and happy. They are more likely to have faith in people and get along well with them. In short, love draws the best out of a person. It makes a person joyful and optimistic. And when one feels that he is loved, he sees the world as a challenge, not as a threat. Love is a basic ingredient in happy living.
The same is true with the churches today. If we want our churches to be happy, then, love should not be overlooked. Love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).
Strauch acknowledged that love is the divine glue that holds the elders and the congregation together. No elder is perfect. Elders have problems, weaknesses and faults, and each believer has a unique perspective on how elders should operate. As a result, even the best elders are inevitably accused of pride and wrong judgments. But love suffers long (I Corinthians 13:4-6). Love unites, heals and builds up the church. Believers who love their
shepherds will have greater understanding and tolerance for their shepherd’s mistakes. In love, believers will be less critical and more responsive to the elder’s instruction and admonition. The best thing a congregation can do for its elders are, to love them. Only then believers and elders can be able to live in peace.
However, our natural tendency is to take our leaders for granted, forget what they have done, complain rather than be thankful, accentuate the bad and disregard the good. For example, God gave Israel some of the greatest leaders in history - men like Moses and David. Yet, during difficult times, the people were ready for a moment to stone both Moses and David to death. The Spirit exhorts us to highly honor all who shepherd the flock. Paul admonishes us to esteem very highly in love those who shepherd the flock of God because of their work. Leon Morres writes “A special kind of love within the brotherhood is love for the leaders; they are to be loved because of their work, not necessarily because of their qualities”.
Love is the center of the teachings of Jesus. In fact, he went beyond the specific requirements of Jewish Law in the way he explored the love requirements to include
“sinners,” even “enemies”. We are to love them chiefly because God already loves them. We demonstrate our love for God by loving our fellowmen.
How can one have love? A person can have love by showing unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the well being of another. In the Old Testament, love as
self-giving appeared in the significant commandment to Israelites to love the strangers by not mistreating or doing no injustice to them. Israelites must love the strangers like themselves because they were also strangers before in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-36).
In the New Testament, Jesus gave the story of the Good Samaritan who took care of the man who fell among robbers to illustrate the selfless love, which is to be the characteristic of citizens of the kingdom of heaven. For Jesus, love includes loving, forgiving and praying for the enemies even those who persecute. Loving only those who love you is only good for the heathens. For the Apostle Paul, love means to be kind and patient with other people because love is not jealous or boastful, not arrogant nor rude. To love is to be generous and good with others because true love is not selfish, irritable nor resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrong but in the right.
Love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things (I Cor.
Love is where the centrifugal force of sin is counteracted. Sin divides, love unites. Sin separates, love reconciles. Love and reconciliation are two inseparable things. In love, reconciliation becomes visible and possible. Because of love God reconciles the world to Himself. Love is the reason why God sent His begotten Son Jesus Christ into the world to die on the cross at Calvary so that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life. Therefore, we must be reconciled not only to our fellowmen but above all, to God.
According to Paul, man must be reconciled to God because he is a sinner. He breaks God’s law not just involuntary but inevitably, so incurring divine condemnation. The apostle defined sin as a radical wrongness in our life, a turning away from one true and righteous God. Sin is a universal state, which affects every son of Adam. Sin is a violation of God’s law and that means not only the Law of Moses but the universal and eternal law of God. For man is a sinner, no human cure is in sight. Paul declares that the only cure for the sin of man is the grace of God.
The gospel proclaims God’s forgiveness, a forgiveness grounded in the divine deed at the Cross, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”. He had made peace by the blood at the cross. Therefore, being justified by faith, men have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. From the human point of view, there can be no release, no deliverance, and no real spiritual life for sinful man unless he gets an initial assurance of an unchanging love of God deeper than his sin. “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Certainly, we can depend on the love of God. Nothing can deprive us of it. No evil, no transgressions, nothing can separate us from His love. God’s love is constantly, continually, eternally dependable for it is based upon God’s character. God loves. . . because God is love (I John 4:8). Love of God and love of men is the foundation of Paul’s leadership. It is also the reason why he went to the
Gentile world as a missionary and preached the gospel of salvation.