Read 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8
6-8 Even though we had some standing as Christ’s apostles, we never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren’t aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did. (THE MESSAGE)
Caring for people, whether in a paid-leadership capacity or not, can become an exercise in control or even tyranny. We want to get people to do things our way, to get on-board with the program, to sign up for the vision, to march in-step with those who have made the decisions. Our legitimate desire to help people work towards a good and common goal can become a sort of tyranny that sees them as mere fodder for our own ambitions.
But other people in our churches are not aliens to be conquered or enemies to be defeated. They are fellow travellers who may just be seeing the journey a bit differently to us. Leaders are to be respected, but they do not have all the truth. They have the difficult task of both respecting the individuality of people whilst calling them to work together for a common good.
And when some people see things differently, we can become adversarial. The non-conforming person becomes a threat rather than a reminder that there may be different ways of travelling towards a similar destination.
A wise pastor, Eugene Peterson, once said that it is both dangerous and easy to hate people for not being who they ought to be. Yet if we do not first respect who they are, we will never help them become who they ought to be. Putting this into practice means adopting the attitude of Paul, a man of authority and ability but also a man with a tender heart. His teaching arose from love of God and the people, not a desire to impose his ego on others.