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Christ’s Attitude of Leadership Exemplified

2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Jim Davis

Christ's style of leadership was from another dimension. Christ had all authority from the Father when he ministered on earth, yet that authority was exercised through meekness and gentleness. Imagine, God the Son with the power of the universe at his disposal, standing before Pilate awaiting the sentence of death with all gentleness and meekness. Christ told Pilate, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above" (John 19:11 NIV) The One who was equal with God exercised his authority in meekness and gentleness.

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)

Peter gives us a concise statement of Jesus' humble frame of mind.

1 Peter 1:21-25
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (NIV)

Paul Exemplifies Christ Leadership

Paul had great authority as an apostle, but he exercised that authority by gentleness and meekness of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:1-6
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you-- I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (NIV)

One who is meek and gentle may come across as one who is timid. Paul writes, "By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you-- I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away!" Paul's readers were accusing him of being timid when he came to him. However, his letters as you can see are very bold.

2 Corinthians 10:9-11
I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. (NIV)

The Corinthian letters were authoritatively written under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Paul didn't hesitate to claim a position of authority as he wrote, but he didn't exert his authority as boldly when he was one on one with the church at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 14:36-38
Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. (NIV)

Paul's letters were weighty, but his presence was unimpressive because he didn't wage the kind of war they expected. Instead, Paul relied on God's divine power to demolish Satan's stronghold on the church. Paul writes, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete."

Paul's personal presence may have seemed weak because he chose not to be a burden to the Corinthians. They may have perceived this as being fearful to ask them for their financial support.

2 Corinthians 11:5-9
But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles." I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. (NIV)

Paul appeared timid for not asking the Corinthians for financial support, but he reminded them that he was bold in asking others to support him financially while preaching for such a carnal minded church in Corinth. He was bold enough to ask the poor congregations in Macedonia to help. Remember in chapter 8 that the Macedonians were boldly giving of their means in spite of their poverty. You have to be very bold to ask poor Christians to support those who are perfectly able to support themselves. Paul's motive was to avoid hindering the gospel message. Of course, this made him look timid and weak in comparison to those bold enough to take advantage of the Corinthians.

Do we judge preachers in the same way today? I am afraid that the same attitude may prevail in Christian circles toward "big preachers" and "little preachers." Some preachers command large salaries, while lesser-known preachers make great personal sacrifices to be able to proclaim the gospel of Christ to smaller congregations. Those preachers providing much of their own support without asking congregations for more support are perceived as timid and weak. Many of those laboring in smaller congregations may not be well-trained speakers, but they may have more knowledge. They may not make as much money because they have chosen to make a personal sacrifice. Worldly-minded Christians may perceive their willingness to sacrifice as weakness.

2 Corinthians 10:12
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (NIV)

Characteristics of Gentleness and Meekness

Power is a real characteristic of gentleness and meekness. Never forget this one thing--the meek shall inherit the earth. Jesus was meek and lowly, but he rose triumphant over heaven and earth. We must remember that it is not the one who commends himself\herself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (10:18). The Lord commends the meek and gentle by giving them his power to solve problems.

A meek and gentle approach to problem solving helps you stay cool and calm. Have you ever had a conversation with a braggart? All you can do is listen. Their thoughts are so high and mighty. You cannot win if you wage war with the same pretentious arguments they use. Even if your arguments are the truth, they will seem pretentious to the braggart. I think Paul was wise in writing to them rather than arguing with them verbally. The written word is more powerful than the spoken word. It is no accident that God put his Word in written form.

Personal growth is the goal of a gentle and meek approach. Paul's unwillingness to force them to respond to his teaching when he was present in Corinth made him look weak. But Paul didn't want the Corinthians doing what they needed to do because he demanded it. He wanted them to do it because of their own personal growth. He wanted them to understand why it needed to be done. He wanted them to respond with a willing heart. He wanted them to do what ever they did as a result of their personal faith in God.

2 Corinthians 10:6
And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (NIV)

Paul was ready to act as soon as they were ready to obey. Obedience cannot be forced. Church discipline cannot be effective without a congregation's cooperation. Paul was willing to do what needed to be done, but first they had to decide that it was the right thing to do. They had to decide to be obedient without being forced to do what was right.

Only a willing obedience can overcome the lofty ideas that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Those scheming, defensive thoughts must be captured and brought into submission, one by one. This takes personal growth. This is God's powerful strategy for overcoming Satan's schemes.

Gentleness and meekness recognizes the purpose of authority. God had given authority to Paul to build the Corinthians up. Some want a place of authority to give them power, but Paul understood his position of authority was given to him to serve others. Helping a congregation grow in their personal faith is the only purpose of authority in Christ's church. Authority in Christ's church has nothing to do with making people do what you think needs to be done. It has to do with helping them see what needs to be done.

2 Corinthians 10:7-8
You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it. (NIV)

Paul says, " . . . the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down . . ." Authority is not given to us to tear the church apart because of things we don't agree with. Authority is to be exercised for the personal benefit of those being led. That is to build those led up in the faith.

Gentle and Meek Spirit Gives Stability

Paul's critics called him a hypocrite.

2 Corinthians 10:1
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you-- I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! (NIV)

Paul was accused of overemphasizing his authority.

2 Corinthians 10:10
For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." (NIV)

Paul was criticized because he wasn't an impressive speaker. They probably thought that he couldn't earn his living by relying on his speaking abilities. He wasn't that great of a speaker to listen to.

2 Corinthians 10:10
For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." (NIV)

The meekness and gentleness of Christ provided Paul stability under such criticism. Criticism is a reality of life. No one is immune to criticism. How we handle it is crucial. There are some things we must understand if we are to handle criticism positively.

Theodore Roosevelt in a speech titled "Citizen in a Republic:"

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly." (Theodore Roosevelt, from the speech "Citizen in a Republic," given at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.)

Knowing how to handle criticism makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes criticism is sincere. Sometimes criticism is given to hurt. Criticism that is given to help is much easier to handle than criticism given to hurt.

Since we can't escape criticism we must yield to it. If you prepare for the onslaught of criticism you won't feel like quitting when it comes. It hurts to take criticism to heart but we must---but we must take it with a grain of salt.

"What people say about us is never quite true; but it is never quite false, either; they always miss the bull's eye, but they rarely fail to hit the target." (Sydney Harris)

There are times when we must accept our responsibility by admitting that criticism leveled at us is just. We must do this even when it is partially true. A gentle and meek heart will allow us to see the value in criticism. Where would you be without criticism? You would never know that you failed a test. You would not know your blind spots.

It is not healthy to set yourself up as one who can't be criticized without taking it personally. We may build a protective stronghold around ourselves and dare anyone to criticize. Sometimes we need criticism to tear down those high and mighty fortresses the devil has helped us erect in our minds. Satan wants us to dismiss the wise criticism of others.

When we have walls erected to prevent criticism it makes it difficult for others to help us in crucial times. They may see that we are going astray, but they are afraid to say anything because of our defenses.

Paul didn't scramble to please his critics by apologizing for their every complaint. He sought to get them to look at things from his vantage point.

Criticism allowed Paul to correct their perspective. He tells them that they are looking at things superficially.

2 Corinthians 10:7
You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. (NIV)

There are times that you must allow criticism to slide because of the arguments it will generate. This is especially true if the critic doesn't have an open mind or is too immature to understand the depth of what is going on.

2 Timothy 2:22-26
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (NIV)

Often when people criticize because of their lack of maturity it gives you a chance to deepen their understanding of what is going on. It gives you a chance to allow them to walk where you are walking. Have you ever asked a critical question and the one being question answers, "I am glad you ask that question because it gives me a chance to explain myself." After they explain themselves you gain a deeper appreciation of where they are coming from.

Criticism allows us to explain our motives. Criticizing Paul gave him a chance to explain the motive behind the authority given to him.

2 Corinthians 10:8-9
For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. (NIV)

We may assume that everyone knows why we are doing what we are doing. Often it is up to us to clarify our motives behind what we are doing. We have to try to understand why they feel as they do. When we understand their feelings we won't resent explaining our motives.

Explaining the facts of the case allows others to see our authenticity. Paul was not there to commend himself from a worldly point of view. He was there to reveal the authentic love of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:10-12
For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (NIV)

Paul reminded them that his ministry was one that was assigned to him by God. He wanted them to know that he would confine his boasting to what God had appointed him to do.

2 Corinthians 10:13-16
We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man's territory. (NIV)

Paul's style of preaching reminded them that he was depending upon the power of God.

2 Corinthians 11:5-7
But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles." I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? (NIV)

2 Corinthians 4:7-10
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (NIV)

There are times when you must meekly and gently take a stand when you know you are right. Honestly examine the criticism, but if you are right stand firm. Don't bully and don't be bullied into a fake apology.

There are times when you need to allow God to come to your defense. This is especially true when you come to an impasse with your critics. God knows the truth and he will not forsake you. He will vindicate you in due time.

Conclusion:

Remember that a meek and gentle spirit is priceless in handling opposition.

 

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