Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Why leaders fail to feel loved and what they can do about it
On Sunday afternoon, I read Tim Keller’s little book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. It’s a good read for spiritual leaders who fall into the trap of comparison, who daydream “about successes that give them the edge over others,” or who tend to beat themselves up and are “tormented by regrets” (p. 35).
Sometimes I lose sight that I am deeply loved by God. I think it’s a common flaw for spiritual leaders. We base our sense of value on our performance. When attendance goes up, we feel loved by God. When it goes down, we don’t. When we are hanging out with leaders who seem less influential than us, we feel God’s favor. When we are hanging out with leaders who have a bigger circle of influence, we fail to feel God’s pleasure.
I can fall into the trap of looking at my circumstances, comparing myself with others, and concluding that God loves others more than He loves me. When I'm thinking that way, I lose joy, hope, contentment, and energy.
I once read words from 17th century theologian John Gill that reminded me that love describes God so much that 1 John 4:8 and 16 say simply and straightforwardly that “God is love.”
Love originates in God. To us, it might be a strange thought to say that God first loves God. That sounds so selfish. But even for fallen humans, self-love is not a bad thing if it’s not carried to a criminal excess and if it doesn’t neglect others. In fact, we are to love others not more than ourselves but as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). So, it shouldn’t surprise us that God first and chiefly loves Himself. In fact, it should comfort us. He has made Himself the ultimate end of all He does.
Love originates in God for God. Since God is Triune, love flows perfectly, passionately, and eternally between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit; the Son loves the Father and the Spirit; and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son.
He loves because it's His nature and His character to love. God is love.
Now, what is amazing is this: Because of our union with Christ, God loves all His children with the very same love that flowed in eternity past between Father, Son, and Spirit. He does not love one child more than any other.
We must look to scripture, not to our circumstances to prove this point. Scripture teaches us that God loves us with the same love that flows between God the Father and God the Son. You can see this when Jesus prayed to His Father for us, “May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me”(John 17:23, HCSB).
Think of it! The passion that the Father has for Jesus is the passion the Father has for you. He can't love you any more than that.
Let this sink in: There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you less. As my friend Laryssa Ziolkowski once said to me, "God the Father doesn’t even love Jesus any more than He loves you."
Keller writes in his little book, “In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into His family. In other words, God can say to us just as He once said to Christ, ‘You are My Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (p. 40).
If He loves us as much as He loves His Son, then why do we grumble and complain that others are more thin or more popular or more wealthy or more influential? Why do we grumble at the circumstances in which He’s placed us? He is too loving to be unkind to us.
This means that we don’t have to perform! We really don't have to earn this love. It's a gift. As Keller says, “I do not have to do things just to build up my resume. I do not have to do things to make me look good” (p. 40).