This morning during my run I was listening to The Holy Post podcast. They had an interview with J.R. Briggs and they talked about his new book, The Sacred Overlap, which I have added to my, to read list.
It was a great interview. There were several things that got me thinking. Skye and J.R. were talking about how Jesus knew and taught truth, he lived in conviction, and he still was compassionate. Jesus was was criticized by people because his teachings were too hard, and because he was associated with known sinners. He was living in this overlap. And in the overlap there is tension to pulling from either side.
The point that J.R. was making was the Jesus was able to live in that tension because he knew what he was about. He was about doing the Father’s will. When Jesus was a boy and his family lost him in Jerusalem, Jesus was surprised that they didn’t first look in the temple. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”1 When Jesus was confronted about doing miracles on the Sabbath, he said this, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.'”2
Jesus was about the Father’s will and he did the Father’s work.
Yesterday, I was reading in David Brubaker’s When the Center Does Not Hold that awarenesses of personal calling and purpose is one of the key qualities for leaders who are trying to lead through polarization. I want to share some quotes that I’m going to be wrestling with.
“What’s important is that we know ourselves. The most destructive leaders I have encountered are those who were utterly clueless about their behavior and it’s impact on others. . . . Clarity within transfers to clarity with others. When we know who we are and what we believe, we naturally commuicat that clarity to others.”3
Brubaker uses a college president’s experiences leading through significant change as a case study, Loren Swartzendruber knew that he needed to be a non anxious presence for his community, and in order to do that he had to have personal clarity on values and purpose. President Swartzendruber is quoted saying:
Leaders in any environment, certainly in one that is polarized, have to begin with their own integrity. Parker Palmer talks about leading from the inside. Knowing myself internally, knowing what my values are, knowing what my vision is, my goals. I have to keep coming back to that . . . what are my values?4
Over the past several years, we have all had to navigate change and polarization. Holding not to core values and knowing who I am called to be is what has helped me keep going. There are going to be people who attack from both sides. I’m too conservative for liberal friends, and too liberal for my conservative friends. But I am trying to hold in tension Conviction, Compassion, and Wisdom. And I am trying to be about the work that Jesus has called me to.
What am I about? I am called to help people see how the Word of God is alive and active, and how the word of God shapes and enriches our lives today. I believe Jesus is serious about his call to radical discipleship. I believe that my first allegiance is to his kingdom.
I don’t always get all this right, but this is who I am striving to be.
What are you about? What I have learned is it’s a lot easier to work through difficult and polarized situations, if you know who God is shaping you to be. If you wait until your are in a polarized season, to work this stuff out, you will create personal pain, relational pain, and organization pain.
Start asking know, What am I about?
Write out your core values, how is God shaping you? How do those values shape your organization? These questions can help bring clarity. And in personal clarity is a blessing during seasons of polarization.
1 The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Lk 2:49.
2 The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Jn 5:19.
3 David R. Brubaker, When The Center Does Not Hold: Leading in an Age of Polarization, (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2019), 35.
4. Brubaker, When the Center Does Not Hold, 34.