One of my mentors used to say, “You can tell a lot about someone’s relationship with God by their relationship with people.” These words have stuck with me for years. But a recent experience with a physician drove it home.
The doctor entered the exam room in a rush with his scribe/nurse behind him. I had never visited him before.
“Hello, Mr. Stiles, I’m Dr. (Name), and this is Nancy who writes down stuff for me.” That is literally how he introduced his nurse. Nancy’s eyes never left her clipboard, and her face betrayed the fact she had heard the belittling introduction before.
“Good morning, Nancy,” I said, interrupting the doctor’s next sentence. Nancy looked at me with a hesitant smile. No words. After speaking with the doctor for the reason for my visit, I mentioned to Nancy that my daughter was about to graduate as a nurse and how much I admired the hard work it took to get there. When the doctor realized he was done in the room, he promptly shook my hand and left—with Nancy in tow.
After I walked out, my mentor’s words came to mind: “You can tell a lot about someone’s relationship with God by their relationship with people.”
Then I thought about Jesus and how He modeled an entirely different way of treating people.
How Jesus Dealt with the Little People
If you think about it, everybody was “under” Jesus. But you’d never know it by His actions. One of the most brilliant leadership models of history, Jesus gave priority to those under Him—His disciples.
You may be a parent, an employer, a Sunday School teacher, and elder (or a physician!). It doesn’t matter. In whatever way others serve “under” you, consider these 3 ways Jesus modeled the value of others.
1. Jesus inspired action by affection rather than by intimidation.
As we read the Bible, two primary ways of motivating people emerge:
- Persuade by intimidation and fear. This is the model of the world. An example was King Saul, who threatened that anyone who didn’t join in the battle would have their oxen dismembered (1 Sam. 11:7). This way of leading others has these rules:
- Failure is not an option.
- Another person’s success is seen as a threat to your own.
- Lord it over those under you.
- Persuade by love and mutual respect. This is the model of Jesus. An example was David, whose men so loved him that they broke through enemy lines just to draw water from Bethlehem’s well for David (2 Sam. 23:15-16). This way of leading others has these unspoken rules:
On one occasion, Jesus pulled His disciples aside and told them the world and its “lord it over” mindset was backwards. He gave the godly alternative:
It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. —Matthew 20:26
2. Jesus never censured someone without first communicating His expectations of them.
The harshest rebukes Jesus offered came to the religious people who knew God’s standards but ignored them (or redefined them) to suit themselves. Imagine if we showed up on judgment day with no idea of our guilt. We would be more than surprised; we would be angry (and rightly so)! Why? Because God gave us no chance to change.
Instead, the Lord has given us ample evidence of Himself and His holy standard.
- We have our consciences that convict us of wrong (Rom. 2:14-16).
- We have creation that points to God (Rom. 1:20-23).
- We have Scripture that reveals not only our sin but also the way of forgiveness of sin (Rom. 2:23; 3:23-24).
In other words, no one is going to show up on judgment day and say, “That’s not fair!” Each day is a gift of grace.
Do you have something to say to someone by way of correction? Say it in the context of a regular relationship of grace. I remember Josh McDowell once telling us parents: “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” That also works in the workplace. I have always made it a habit of leadership never to surprise someone at an annual review. (Much less a dismissal.) If a disciplinary act has to occur, it should come as no surprise.
Jesus didn’t operate that way. Neither should we.
3. Jesus saw failure as a springboard to growth rather than as an end.
Did you have parents who nitpicked every fault? That’s really tough to deal with as an adult. It stifles all creativity and creates an atmosphere where you always hear the thin ice cracking. You never know which step is your last. When we grow up, this is called “micromanaging.”
Jesus gave freedom to fail:
- Jesus told Peter in the Upper Room that, after his failure and repentance, he should strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32).
- Jesus restored Peter at Tabgha after Peter’s denial, affirming that He was not done with him (John 21).
As I reflect back on my experience with the doctor and Nancy, his nurse, I wonder how much more effective (and loyal) his staff would be if they experienced care, communication, and grace?
I want to be more like Jesus, don’t you?
You can tell a lot about someone’s relationship with God by their relationship with people.
Tell me what you think: What other lessons from Jesus’ example do you see? To leave a comment, just click here.