We are looking at five implications for leaders taken from Philippians 2:7, where Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” Are we ready to lead in this selfless, sacrificial way? If so, here is the third of five ways that leading in obedience to Christ will require of us that we become leaders of no reputation.
Surefire Way #3 Don’t defend yourself
I will admit from the outset, I have a really hard time with this one. However, when I read Scripture I find a consistency in Jesus’ life where he refused to defend his words or actions. He did respond to challenges but his intent seemed always to focus on the opportunity to share truth, teach the values of the kingdom of God and lead others in the right way. He defended the truth, but I can never find where he thought it necessary to defend himself. The ultimate moment came when he was before the Sanhedrin, Herod and later Pilate and refused to supply any of them with an explanation of his mission or methods. He went silently to the cross, enduring their unjust ridicule and accusations.
How do we emulate such humility as followers of Christ called to lead? After all, shouldn’t we defend our reputation when it is being falsely attacked? To stand by and say nothing is to see our reputation become tarnished and allow injustice to go unchecked. Shouldn’t we be challenging the falsehood of the world around us with the truth of the gospel?
Here is one response. There is a difference between confident proclamation and defense. Yes, we should proclaim God’s truth with boldness, never backing down as to its veracity and universal efficacy. But we should be cautious when we move from proclaiming the truth to defending ourselves. And we need the wisdom to know the difference. I was taught in seminary that God does not need our defense of him or his truth. God can take care of himself. The gospel needs no human defense, it is the power of God unto salvation and he will be its sure defense.
In the same way, we are called to obedience in how we live and what we say. If we are true to our calling, we need not be distracted by constantly defending our views. To those outside the faith, the truth of the gospel will always be seen as narrow minded, politically incorrect and offensive. There is no defense of that other than to continually point people back to Jesus and the opportunity to know him. To the people we lead and serve, while we must be clear in our words and provide clarification when needed, we must also be careful not to mix our desire to be liked with our need to defend every challenge.
The urge to defend our self is most often a symptom of our pride and our desire to be right. The person who can speak a word of truth and not have the need to defend that word to every person who disagrees, twists, misquotes and misapplies it, is a person who is free to be used by God to continue to speak the truth in love and leave it to the Spirit to lead hearers to the same conclusions.
Can we lay aside our need to maintain our reputations long enough to speak as God leads us, and trust him as our sure defense?