Title: Leading with Love
Author: Alexander Strauch
Publisher: Lewis & Roth Publishers
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have a prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:1-7)
We’ve all been to a wedding where the apostle Paul’s exposition on love has been the Scripture passage of choice (in fact, I’m pretty sure it was read at ours). But as often as it’s used in that context, pastor & author Alexander Strauch reminds us in Leading with Love that these words are not simply poetry:
They are divine commands.
In this book, Strauch shows readers the “more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31b), as he reminds us that we can do all things, but if they are done without love, they are worthless. “Love is indispensible to you and your ministry,” he writes on page 3. Love for God and love for people are to be our motivation.
The bulk of the first half of the book is devoted to the character and behavior of a loving leader based on the 15 positive and negative descriptions of love found in 1 Cor. 13:1-7 (as quoted above). “These fifteen qualities beautifully portray the character and behavior of the Lord Jesus Christ” (p. 41). And they likewise portray what our character as Christians should be moving towards. We are to “[s]trive to be an example to others of love according to the ‘most excellent way'” (p. 88).
In short, character matters. And one whose character is lacking ought not position themselves as a leader of God’s people. Reading these chapters was particularly moving for me, in large part because I was inspired by the kind of character I want to have… and painfully reminded of the character I actually have, particularly in regard to my quick tempered-ness. “Shepherds can’t be kicking or killing the sheep because they are upset [but] this doesn’t mean that one never gets angry or irritated with people. The Bible doesn’t say love does not get angry; it says love is not easily provoked to anger or irritation,” writes Strauch (p. 67).
But the problem is that sinful anger is usually how our anger expresses itself. “The heart of man is exceedlingly prone to undue and sinful anger, being naturally full of pride and selfishness,” as Strauch quotes Jonathan Edwards. And I know that’s certainly true in my case.
After describing the character of a Christian leader, Strauch devotes the remainder of the book to showing the works of love in the life of a leader.
Words of affirmation, appropriate physical expression, practicing hospitality, caring for the needs of others, laboring in prayer, faithfully preaching and teaching the Scriptures, reproving and correcting error and disciplining & reconciling the wayward—these are critical ways that love is expressed in the works of a Christian leader.
Most insightful for me was chapter 16, Disciplining and Restoring the Wayward. The main point of the chapter: “A critical test of genuine love is whether we are willing to confront and discipline those we care for” (p. 152). In other words, a leader who really loves his people will discipline them when they are in error. “[Discipline] is always agonizing work—messy, complicated, often unsuccessful, emotionally exhausting, and potentially divisive. But that is not love. It is lack of courage and disobedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, who himself laid down instructions for the discipline of an unrepentant believer” (ibid).
What is the purpose of discipline, biblically? Restoration. And at the heart of restoration is a love for people and a love for God, who in love disciplines his children (cf. Heb. 12:6). Strauch’s point is bang on: If we are unwilling to confront one another when sin is present or a concern has come to light, we can’t rightly say that we love each other, can we? It’s a subject that I could go on about at length (and have elsewhere), but sufficed to say Strauch handles the subject with clarity and integrity. He quite brilliantly shows us that love is both tender and stern.
Leading with Love is an exceedingly helpful guide to the “more excellent way” of love—and one that will powerfully transform your view of leadership.