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Learning from Rehoboam: Leaders Choose to whom they Listen

To whom do you listen when you have a tough decision to make? Rehoboam, like all leaders, had a choice to make. And the choice of who the leader listens to can have significant outcomes, as it did for Rehoboam.

We have already seen that Rehoboam learned that failing to listen would cost his leadership. But even leaders who listen well will not be able to make decisions that make everyone happy. So, it’s important for servant leaders to choose to listen to the right people.  Let’s learn from Rehoboam!

 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. They replied, “If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” (2 Chronicles 10:6-9).

Servant leaders listen to all those they serve.

Rehoboam first consulted the elders and then the young men. He wisely chose to listen to both sides for this decision. Many leaders only listen to the people who already agree with them! Their listening only reinforces what they want to do. This is not listening well! Servant leaders learn to listen to all sides before reaching a conclusion. They welcome those with different viewpoints to the table and listen intently to all those they serve.

Servant leaders listen to those who serve others.

There was certainly a difference in the age of the two groups Rehoboam listened to, but there was something more that separated them. The older men had “served his father Solomon during his lifetime.” Those in the younger group “were serving him” (Rehoboam). This was a difference of perspective.

Because of their previous leadership, the men that had served his father brought a depth of experience and wisdom. They could see a much broader perspective. They were less interested in pleasing Rehoboam and more concerned for the nation. He had not appointed them! Rehoboam wisely turned first to this group. It would have seemed more natural to first hear from those who served him! Servant leaders learn to listen to those who serve others; they have wisdom to share!

Servant leaders listen to those who serve them.

Rehoboam then listened to the group “who had grown up with him and were serving him.”They pointed him in the direction he was already inclined to follow. For all leaders, this is the easiest group to hear—those around us who are eager to serve. They follow us and it is certainly wise to hear their voices and opinions. But servant leaders learn to listen to this group with caution, knowing that what feels good may not always be the wise direction. Servant leaders recognize that listening well to others does not always mean deciding to do what they advise.

Servant leaders listen to the one they serve.

Rehoboam took time and effort to listen to two very important groups of people, but he failed to listen to God! He had three days to listen, but we have no indication that he asked God for wisdom as his father had done. Servant leaders can learn from him that both groups are helpful but not adequate. Listening to God would have perhaps given Rehoboam the perspective he needed to overcome his pride and focus on position.

Servant leaders listen well to others, but also to the one they serve and allow His voice to be the loudest of all!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When I have a significant decision to make, to whom do I listen? Is this person or group the right one? Are there others I should be deliberate about hearing?
  • Who are the people in my circle of influence who would fit in the category of serving others? (Either they were there before I was the leader, or they have served other leaders enough to gain different perspectives.) How could I find ways to listen to them?
  • How do I deliberately include God in my decision-making process? Are there things I can do to allow His voice to be heard more clearly?

In the next issue, we’ll examine what leaders lose when they fail to listen.

Learning from Rehoboam: Leaders Choose to Listen

If I asked you, “Do leaders talk, or listen?” what would be your most likely response? We usually focus more on what leaders say than on how they listen. But the short story of Rehoboam’s early leadership, found in 2 Chronicles 10, has many insights for servant leaders on the art of listening. Rehoboam is an example of a leader who tried to listen but failed miserably. Let’s learn from him!

Rehoboam was Solomon’s son and took over the kingdom of Israel after his father’s death. Early in his reign, a group led by Jeroboam*, a former high ranking official under Solomon and a rival leader, came with representatives of ten tribes to ask what kind of leader Rehoboam would be. They said, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you” (2 Chronicles 10:4).

What a leadership opportunity for Rehoboam! He asked for three days to think about it and consulted two groups of advisors, some young and some older. After three days Rehoboam met again with group. The king answered them harshly. Rejecting the advice of the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people…When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So all the Israelites went home (2 Chronicles 10:13-16).

Because Rehoboam chose not to listen, the kingdom was divided! Servant leaders learn from Rehoboam that good leaders choose to listen.

Servant leaders learn that listening has more influence than position.  

Rehoboam had the position of ultimate power. He thought that as the king he could say whatever he wanted done, and people would follow. He learned the hard way that the willingness of followers to serve is not unlimited. They turned away from him in rebellion. Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually lose their position! It may not always happen as quickly and dramatically as it did with Rehoboam, but servant leaders learn to listen well!

Servant leaders learn that listening takes time.

Rehoboam took three days to decide what to do. When he heard the request from the people he wisely asked for time, asked for counsel, and heard from people on opposing sides. In this, he did well and demonstrates that listening takes time. It would have taken less time for Rehoboam to give his reply immediately as many leaders do! It is much easier for leaders to jump into action before stopping to listen. Servant leaders choose to take the necessary time to listen well.

Servant leaders learn that listening takes effort.

We can’t know all that happened in those three days, but Rehoboam tried hard to make a good decision. He listened to different opinions. Some advised him to treat the people gently and others harshly. He must have pondered what to do as he ate in the evening and while he went to sleep. Listening took effort on his part. In the end, he took the easy path that appealed to his own flesh and required less from him. Even though he listened to the wrong group, servant leaders learn from Rehoboam that listening well takes effort.  

All leaders have a choice; they can listen or try to lead without listening. Servant leaders choose to listen.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • As a follower, what experiences have I had with leaders who listened well or who did not listen well? How did their listening, or lack of listening, impact my willingness to follow them? What does that teach me now as a leader?
  • Do the people who follow me believe that I listen to them? If I am not sure, do I have the courage to ask them for an honest response? How does that impact my leadership?
  • What current leadership challenge is giving me an opportunity to listen well? Have I taken the time needed to listen to all sides? Have I made the effort to listen well? What more should I do after learning from Rehoboam?             

*Jeroboam had been a leader in Solomon’s court, in charge of the whole labor force. A prophet told him that he would be king over ten tribes, so he rebelled. Solomon tried to kill him, and he fled to Egypt. (Read the story in 1 Kings 11:26-40.) He returns after the death of Solomon and speaks with Rehoboam in the story we are considering.

Speaking the Truth, With Perseverance

We have been slowly trying to understand what Paul means to speak the truth in love in Ephesians 4:15. Balancing the desire to love with the need for truth is enough of a challenge for most leaders. But the leadership challenge multiplies when Paul adds 14 distinct characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7!

By this time in the journey, you may be asking, “How long do I need to speak truth in love? Is there no end? What happens when I grow weary of speaking truth to people who don’t change?”

Paul concludes his explanation of love by reminding us that love always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7). Love keeps trying after others have stopped. It does not quit! Servant leaders learn what it means to speak the truth with perseverance.

Speaking the truth with perseverance requires balance.

Some leaders speak truth but quit when they don’t see the results they desire. They allow their own discouragement to stop them from speaking truth. Other leaders may persevere in a relationship for a long time but never take the step of speaking truth. Both truth and perseverance are needed.

Because love always hopes, love doesn’t quit or give up. Through good times and bad, true love perseveres. Is there someone you once loved and tried to speak the truth to, but gave up when nothing seemed to change? Paul says to us all, love always perseveres. Love tries again….and again!

Servant leaders learn that there is never a time to stop speaking truth!

Speaking the truth with perseverance reveals maturity.

Paul reminds us that when we speak truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking truth with perseverance requires great patience, faithfulness and self-control. All these are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that take time for God to develop in our hearts.

As leaders grow in maturity, they learn not to give up quickly on others. They recognize that truth may take months or years to produce fruit in the life of the listener. As servant leaders mature, they grow in their ability to speak truth with perseverance.

Speaking the truth with perseverance reflects Jesus.

Jesus showed a balance of truth and perseverance in His conversations with Peter. We have already observed how patiently Jesus waited before speaking the truth to Peter after his painful denial of Christ.

When the time was finally right, Jesus spoke truth to Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And when Jesus spoke truth He persevered, asking the same question three times. The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

Peter was hurt because of Jesus’ persistence in asking this question. But Jesus kept on, gently reminding Peter of the three times he had denied Christ. Jesus exposed Peter’s pain so that Peter could be healed and accomplish his calling as a leader in the early church. His love finally broke Peter’s heart.

What if Jesus would have given up on Peter the night of the betrayal? Or if he would have asked only once, “Do you love me?” Jesus knew that He needed to persevere in speaking truth to Peter.

Like Jesus, servant leaders learn that love does not stop even when pain is exposed. They learn from Him to speak truth with perseverance.  

Love and truth. Servant leaders are called to speak both in balance. And with Jesus as a guide, they learn that truth is spoken patiently, with kindness, without boasting, without pride, in ways that honor the other, without self-seeking, without anger, without a record of wrongs, with rejoicing, and always protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency: to speak “truth” with perseverance or to give up when I don’t see results? What is the result in my leadership? 
  • When have I spoken truth, but didn’t persevere? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?  
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke truth with perseverance? What can I learn from His example?
  • As you reflect on the past 15 issues which focused on speaking the truth in love, which area needs more attention? Take some time to look back and allow God to guide your response.

Speaking the Truth, With Hope

Paul continues to challenge servant leaders to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).But will speaking truth in love accomplish the change we desire? Since Paul recognizes that we might be tempted to avoid speaking the truth because we can’t predict the outcome, he also tells us that love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7).So, servant leaders are called to speak the truth with hope. What does it mean to hope as we speak truth?

We normally use the word ‘hope’ to mean a wish, something we desire to be true. A servant leader may desire to speak the truth in hope that the listener will respond with change. But this is not what Paul meant when he said that love always hopes. In the Bible, hope has a much stronger meaning. Biblical hope is a confident belief in what God has promised. We hope in what is not yet seen. The source of hope is not our desire but in God’s faithfulness. In the last issue we looked at speaking truth with trust. The focus of trust is on the other person; the focus of hope is on God.

So, as servant leaders learn to speak truth with hope, their foundation is not in what they ‘hope’ will happen. Instead their hope is in God’s ability to take truth and accomplish His purposes both in their lives and in the lives of the listener. They may or may not see the outcome, but servant leaders are called to speak truth with hope based on God’s faithfulness.

Speaking the truth with hope requires balance.

Some leaders may face a situation that requires change but hesitate to speak the truth. They conclude that since their hope is in God, they will keep quiet and allow God to produce the change. Their hope is in God, but they are not speaking truth!

A balance is needed. Love requires that truth be spoken with hope in God, not the person involved. Servant leaders learn that their hope in God’s work is combined with their willingness to speak truth.

Speaking the truth with hope reveals maturity.

Young leaders may speak truth to someone who walks away with no visible change. When nothing happens, the immature leader may speak truth again, but a little louder. They believe more energy on their part will accomplish greater change for the listener! Finally, in disappointment, the leader concludes that it’s better not to keep speaking the truth.

But with maturity, servant leaders learn to speak truth with hope. This hope is not in the person, but in God’s ability to use truth to do His work. They have a deep confidence that what is spoken in love will ultimately accomplish God’s purposes even if they don’t see it visibly. Servant leaders also recognize that part of God’s purposes may be developing patience in them as they wait to see what they hope for!

Speaking the truth with hope reflects Jesus.

Jesus speaks truth with hope when the rich young ruler comes to him and asks what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21).

Jesus could have tried to make the truth less demanding, but He loved the man too much to ignore the truth. He knew that the young ruler might turn away, as he did after hearing Jesus’ words. But Jesus spoke truth with hope, believing that at any time God could turn this difficult situation around.

Immediately He told His disciples, all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27).We do not know if change ever occurred for this young ruler. But Jesus spoke truth with a deep hope in God’s ability to change the situation. And He teaches servant leaders to do the same!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency: to speak ‘truth’ with hope in God or in the person to whom I’m speaking? What is the result in my leadership?
  • When have I spoken truth, but not with hope in God? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus showed His deep hope as He spoke the truth? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Speaking the Truth, With Trust

Paul calls all of us to speak with truth and love. Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Speaking truth can be a scary thing! We might be afraid that it will not be well received. Or we might be afraid that the truth will cause more harm than good. It can be difficult to trust that the listener will receive our words well. So, Paul adds more insight when he says that love always trusts (1 Corinthians 13:7).

What does it mean to trust as we speak truth? Trust is a strong belief in the other person. Servant leaders base their trust on God’s dependability, not on the performance of that person. They choose to believe that the person is worthy of love because of God’s love for each of us.

Trust does not mean that a leader blindly opens their hearts to a person who has shown themselves to be untrustworthy. Trust is earned, but a leader can speak truth in love trusting that God will use it for the good of that person. Speaking truth with trust means extending grace to others and choosing to trust them even more than they deserve. Love is willing to take the risk. Servant leaders learn to push back their fear and speak truth with trust.

Speaking the truth with trust requires balance.

Some leaders may hesitate to speak the truth because they have no confidence in the person to whom they are speaking. They are suspicious of the other person’s heart, perhaps because of some pain in the past from this relationship. The pain or suspicion keeps them quiet and the truth is not spoken. Another leader may believe the best about someone and hope that they will change on their own without hearing the truth. This leader fails to lovingly share the truth.

Other leaders may speak truth but do it with little trust that it will bring growth or change. They recall past mistakes and focus on the failures of the other person. They expect nothing to change. Paul reminds servant leaders to clearly speak the truth that is balanced with trust.

Speaking the truth with trust reveals maturity.

As we learn to speak truth with trust, Paul reminds us that we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Learning to speak truth with trust takes time. Immature leaders may allow their hurt to prevent them from speaking truth when a person shows he or she is untrustworthy. The pain of these difficult experiences makes it difficult to trust others. It takes time and much experience to be able to wisely discern how and when to trust, and to have the courage to risk believing for the best in others. Servant leaders ask Jesus to help them balance truth and trust as they mature as leaders.

Speaking the truth with trust reflects Jesus.

Jesus provides a great example of speaking the truth with trust to Thomas, the disciple that we identify with doubting. He was the last disciple to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).

To the one who doubted Him the most, Jesus spoke tender words of truth and offered a wounded man hope. He did not ignore the unpleasant truth that Thomas doubted. But He spoke with confidence that Thomas would believe. His words invited Thomas to grow and change and they transformed his life. Jesus spoke truth with trust and He teaches servant leaders to do the same.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Is my natural tendency to speak “truth with trust” or to be “suspicious”? What is the result in my leadership?
  • When have I spoken truth, but not with trust? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?
  • Is there a relationship in which I have experienced deep hurt that makes it difficult to speak with trust? How might Jesus invite me to speak truth with trust in this relationship?
  • How can I speak truth with trust to someone who has clearly shown themselves to be untrustworthy?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke the truth with trust? What can I learn from His example?

Speaking the Truth, while Protecting

We are beginning to recognize that it is not a simple matter to follow Paul’s instruction to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) because he challenges our understanding of love when he lists the actions of love. One of these actions is that love “always protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7).So, servant leaders learn to speak truth while protecting. What does it mean for a leader to protect the other person as they speak truth?

Servant leaders protect the humanity of the other, seeing them as a fellow human being created in the image of God. When correction is needed, they protect the dignity of the other by sharing privately, not by shaming them in public. Servant leaders protect the honor of the other person by expecting the best from that person. They protect that person by choosing the right time to speak and selecting the location that will most likely allow the truth to be received.

Everything the servant leader does is focused on the needs of the other and how to make it most likely that they will receive the truth spoken with deep love. They express their love by protecting as they speak truth.

Speaking the truth while protecting requires balance.

Some leaders speak the truth with little concern about how it will impact the person listening. They speak quickly and put everything out at once. They live by the principle, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!” They love the truth more than the person to whom they are speaking truth.

Other leaders focus on the feelings of the other person and are so concerned with not offending or hurting the relationship that they ignore the truth.

A balance is needed. Servant leaders learn to speak truth that is balanced with concern to protect the listener.

Speaking the truth while protecting reveals maturity.

Immature leaders either ignore the truth or speak it quickly without concern for the other person. It takes the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to develop love in the life of the leader so that the focus is on the person receiving the truth.

Mature servant leaders learn that truth is valuable, but people are more precious. The person should be protected, not from the truth itself, but from anything which would cause the truth to not be received. Demonstrating this depth of love requires time for the leader to become mature.

Speaking the truth while protecting reflects Jesus.

Jesus boldly spoke truth, but He also expressed love by protecting those who needed to hear it. When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him in John 8, Jesus spoke truth but protected this woman. He literally protected her physically from those who were accusing her with the truth. They came armed with the truth and were ready to kill her. Jesus protected her life. In the end all her accusers left, and Jesus was alone with this hurting woman.

He protected her dignity by not speaking at all about her sin until He was alone with her. Her accusers loudly spoke the truth in the open and with the intent to condemn. Jesus protected her dignity by not speaking at all about her sin until they were alone. He was concerned about the timing and location when He would speak truth. He stooped down, humbling Himself in her presence, protecting her dignity as a human being and valuable person.

Finally, when the time was right to speak directly to her, Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus lovingly spoke truth while protecting and He shows servant leaders how to do the same.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth” or to “protect the other person from the truth”? What is the result in my leadership?
  • When have I spoken truth, but did not protect the person? In what way did I not protect them? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke the truth while protecting the listener? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Speaking the Truth, with Rejoicing

When we speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), the words we say are important. But Paul also reminds us that the attitude of our heart matters as we speak. He says a heart of love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).This is a reminder that when we speak it is possible for us to say the right words but have the wrong attitude in our hearts.

Paul warns against delighting in what is evil. Servant leaders do not rejoice in the sin or wrong in another persons’ life. But they rejoice with the truth! Servant leaders rejoice when the truth can be spoken and joyfully anticipate a response to the truth which will bring greater freedom and joy to that person’s soul.

Rejoicing as we speak truth delights in the opportunity to speak into the life of another person for their good. It reflects a focus on the other rather than self. It is this focus on the other which reveals a true heart of love and allows the servant leader to speak the truth with rejoicing.

Speaking the truth with rejoicing requires balance.

Some leaders may find a mistake or wrong in someone’s life and find delight in exposing it, feeling justified that the ‘truth has been revealed.’ There may be secret pride in the leader feeling that in some way he/she is better than the other because a wrong has been revealed. The words spoken may be true, but they are not loving.

Other leaders may see the wrong and not be willing to speak the truth because they don’t want to appear to be “delighting in evil.” This leader only wants to focus on the positive in the other and rejoice in what is right. Paul tells us that a balance is needed. Truth should be spoken but with the right attitude. A servant leader carefully guards against delighting in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Speaking the truth with rejoicing reveals maturity.

Learning to rejoice at the right things reflects our level of maturity. Paul made it clear that as we learn how to speak the truth in love, “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). This growth is a process and takes time to develop.

An immature leader may see the need to speak truth but do it out of a sense of duty or obligation, as one of the tasks of leadership. This is especially true when the truth which needs to be spoken may be painful or difficult for the other person to receive. This leader may focus on what it will ‘cost’ to take the time and energy to speak the truth. The focus is on oneself, not the other person.

As leaders mature, Christ changes their hearts to be more loving and to focus on the needs of the other instead of self. Even when truth needs to expose something wrong or sinful in another person’s life, the servant leader does not rejoice in what is wrong but finds delight in helping the other person to grow by speaking the truth with love.

Speaking the truth with rejoicing reflects Jesus.

Jesus never delighted in evil but rejoiced in speaking the truth. After Simon Peter acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Jesus was able to focus on the blessing for Simon Peter and rejoiced in what God had revealed to him. Jesus was not envious that Peter had received this revelation, He rejoiced! And although Peter’s revelation was all about Jesus’ identity, Jesus does not focus on Himself, but on Peter. He continued to talk about Peter’s destiny to become a significant leader in the church. Servant leaders learn from Jesus to rejoice as they speak the truth in love.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to “delight in evil” or “rejoice in the truth”? What is the result in my leadership?   
  • When have I spoken truth, but was inwardly proud that I was able to expose the wrong in the other person? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person with whom I spoke?  
  • Read Matthew 16:13-23 and reflect more on Jesus’ communication with Peter. What can I observe about how Jesus kept the focus on Peter instead of Himself? Am I able to do this when someone gives me a compliment? What can I learn about speaking the truth in love from Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in verse 23? Was this spoken in love?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus rejoiced as He spoke truth? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019

Speaking the Truth, with No Record of Wrongs

When I’ve done my best to speak truth in love to a good friend, but they continue repeating the same mistakes, what does it mean to respond in the way of Jesus? Paul clearly commands us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). But then he clarifies that love “keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). So, servant leaders are called to speak the truth in love with no record of wrongs. This is not easy, especially when the person has wronged you several times.

Speaking the truth with no record of wrongs requires balance.

Some leaders will focus on the truth: that wrongs have been done and they have been repeated! When the focus is on the “record of wrongs,” leaders respond with their own emotion of pain for the wrongs done against them. This is often an angry outburst which includes a reference to the number of wrongs: “You hurt me four times now; enough is enough!” In this response, the focus is on how the wrong has impacted the leader, not on how to help the other overcome their mistakes.

Other leaders may focus on not keeping a record of wrongs, but in doing so, they do not speak the truth! Their response after several mistakes is, “Oh, that’s nothing major, don’t worry about it!” They do not acknowledge the wrong and therefore don’t help the person to improve.

Servant leaders recognize that a balance is needed. Truth must be expressed, but the focus should not be on the number of times a mistake has been made. Remembering wrongs and keeping a record of the wrongs are two different things. Leaders cannot choose to forget what has happened in the past. But they can consciously choose not to allow the ‘record’ of wrongs to dictate their current emotions or response.

A healthy response may be to say to the person, “This has happened several times now, can we talk about what is causing this?” Here, the truth is addressed, but without the accusation of the past failures. Servant leaders learn to focus on the needs of the other to grow rather than their own need to recall!

Speaking the truth with no record of wrongs reveals maturity.

It is natural to keep a list of offenses against us—we do it without training! When the offense of the other person is repeated, we naturally begin to react with strong emotions, often anger, towards the person. Then our response may contain ‘truth’ but it is shaped by the record of wrongs. Paul would remind us that this is not love. Our focus in on self and retaliation rather than on helping the other person.

It takes maturity of character not to use that list of wrongs against another person. Mature leaders speak what the other needs to hear, not what they feel like saying! Servant leaders grow as they realize that the ‘truth’ of their own condition is that they have also repeated mistakes often and have been forgiven often. As Jesus shapes their hearts, they can extend the same grace to others.

Speaking the truth with no record of wrongs reflects Jesus.

Jesus is the one who taught us to forgive others at least 77 times! (See Matthew 18:22.) But He was not encouraging us to remind people of the number of times they failed!

He demonstrated this when He greatly desired the prayers of His three closest disciples. They failed once, then twice and then a third time when Jesus comes back, and they are sleeping again. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:41-42).

I would have been tempted to respond with only the truth, “You’ve had three chances to pray for me and you have failed me three times!” Or I might have minimized the wrong and said only, “Let’s go!”

Jesus spoke truth when He said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough!” But He didn’t remind them of how many times they had done wrong. He didn’t react from His own disappointment and didn’t need to remind them that this was their failure number three! He spoke truth with no record of wrongs.

Servant leaders learn from Jesus to speak truth with no record of wrongs.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency: to speak “truth” by reminding others of their past record or to avoid the painful truth from the past? What is the result in my leadership?
  • When have I spoken truth, but also reacted to others because of their previous mistakes? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? Do I need to ask forgiveness from that person?
  • What other times in Jesus’ life and ministry reveal that Jesus did not keep a record of wrongs? How did He speak truth in those situations without reminding people of their history? What can I learn from Him that I need to practice in a current relationship?
  • We’ve been looking at many ways we are called to speak truth in love and we have a few more to examine. In what ways is my speech changing?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Speaking the Truth, without Anger

When we are angry, we usually open our mouths! And what comes out is not usually very loving, especially when we have been deeply hurt. Paul challenges us to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). This is a difficult challenge when we are angry. But Paul goes on to make it very clear that love “is not easily angered” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When I am angered easily, it indicates that I’m not practicing love, no matter what I say with my mouth!

Imagine that a close friend betrays your confidence. You shared a personal prayer request and later discovered that your friend had told others! What will you say? Servant leaders learn from Paul to speak truth but without being easily angered.

Speaking the truth without anger requires balance.

When you see your friend, you might explode and say loudly, “I can’t believe you told others what I shared with you; that was so wrong. I’ll never talk to you again!” Did you speak the truth? Yes, but with a lot of anger!

Or you might be so angry at your friend that you decide never to trust them again but choose not to speak about what happened. So, you keep quiet and fail to speak the truth!

Paul calls us to balance truth and love. We should speak the truth but not with anger. We cannot ignore what happened, but we should only speak when we are not consumed with anger. We may need to acknowledge our anger but find a way to speak with gentleness. Perhaps you can say, “What you did really hurt me, and I was very angry about it. God helped me to forgive you, but I would like to talk about what happened so that it does not destroy our friendship.” This is truth spoken with love!

Speaking the truth without anger reveals maturity.

How easily am I angered? That’s a test of my maturity. Immature leaders quickly become angry. If I am quick to become angry, I need the Spirit to keep working in me to produce patience and gentleness in my heart. Then I need to think about what I say when I’m angry. Being able to balance truth and gentleness is also a test of maturity. It is much easier to explode in anger than to speak the truth gently in love!

To speak with love and without anger when we have been hurt is a sign of maturity which often takes a long time. That’s why Paul says that as we learn to speak the truth in love we will, “grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Servant leaders learn that sometimes the best thing to do is to stop and let God help them control their anger before they say anything. But then, when their anger is controlled, they seek courage from God to address the issue truthfully in the right spirit. Mature servant leaders are able to speak truth without being easily angered.

Speaking the truth without anger reflects Jesus.

Jesus’ life shows us that it is not always wrong to be angry. He was angry when others were mistreated, when His Father’s house was misused and when peoples’ hearts were stubborn. But he was not ‘easily angered’ and did not react to personal insults or betrayal.

Even when Jesus knew that Peter would betray Him, He calmly spoke the truth with no hint of anger. Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).Later, after Peter denied Him,Jesus simply looked at Peter. We don’t know what Jesus ‘said’ with His eyes but it must not have been a look of anger since His look caused the bold Peter to weep tears of grief and repentance. (See Luke 22:61).

Jesus spoke truth without being easily angered and He calls all servant leaders to follow His example.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth” with anger or to keep quiet when I’m angry and avoid the truth? What is the result in my leadership? 
  • When have I spoken truth, but with anger? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? Do I need to ask forgiveness of that person?
  • What times in Jesus’ life and ministry reveal that Jesus was not “easily angered”? How would I have responded to these situations?
  • Look at the following passages in which Jesus was angry or spoke very strong words: Mark 3:1-5; Matthew 23:1-4; John 2:13-22. Reflect on what happened in these situations. What can we learn about the things He was angry about? How did He speak truth in these situations? What can we learn from His example?
  • Reflect on what James teaches about anger in James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” What does this teach us about speaking the truth without being easily angered?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Speaking the Truth, without Self-Seeking

When Paul calls us as leaders to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), he clearly wants what we speak to be true. But when he explains that love is “not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5), Paul goes deep into our hearts to expose the reasons why we speak truth.

What we say matters but our motive for saying it also matters! Paul recognizes that we may speak truth, but our motive is to benefit ourselves rather than the other person. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says we should speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.The truth should benefit the other person, not the speaker.

Servant leaders learn from Paul to speak the truth without any hint of personal gain. Their focus is outward, not inward. They focus on the needs of the other, not themselves.

Speaking the truth without self-seeking requires balance.

Both truth and an unselfish motive are required for balanced speech. Many leaders have a passion to speak truth, but their motive is selfish. Perhaps they think that the truth will make them look better than the other person, since they don’t have that problem. Or they may realize that the person’s mistake is hindering the growth of the organization, so they decide to speak the truth. But their motive is to advance the organization, not to meet the needs of the person. Or they may speak truth to respond to something that hurt them personally. These motives are all seeking self!

On the other hand, a leader may have genuine love for the other person but fear that speaking the truth will cause offense or damage the relationship. So, they say nothing, and the truth is lost! Both truth and a focus on the needs of the other person are needed. Sometimes speaking the truth in love will benefit the other person and benefit themselves or the organization. But servant leaders don’t allow their own interests to determine their actions. Instead, they look to the needs of the other.

The needs of the other, not the needs of the leader, determine what will be said and how it will be spoken. Servant leaders balance truth with the motive of meeting other’s needs.

Speaking the truth without self-seeking reveals maturity.

All leaders are naturally selfish, so maturity is required to speak truth with no hint of self-seeking! Because motives are often hidden, servant leaders take time to ask God to expose what is hidden in their hearts.

When they make mistakes, servant leaders repent and ask God to continue changing their hearts and revealing hidden motives. They ask God to break their proud hearts and pour His love for others into the places that once were focused only on self. This breaking often happens over a long period of time as a leader walks in daily obedience to Jesus. As servant leaders grow in maturity, their words of truth expressed in genuine love become life-giving gifts to those who hear them.

Speaking the truth without self-seeking reflects Jesus.

Jesus was able to speak truth without seeking His own needs. In John 5:28-30, He says, 28“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

The truth that Jesus spoke was difficult to accept but He spoke boldly. At the same time, He was not saying these things to please Himself or to make Himself look good. He spoke the warning that His listeners needed to hear.

Servant leaders reflect on Paul’s words and follow the example of Jesus to speak truth without self-seeking.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency: to focus on my needs, or on the needs of those I speak to? What is the result in my leadership?   
  • When have I spoken truth, but was seeking self? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? Is there anything I should do now to correct that mistake?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke truth without self-seeking? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.