You know the question, “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” Or, “What would you do if money were no problem?” The purpose is to open you up to the possibilities. Think outside the box. Get ready to take a risk.
What does this have to do with the Parable of the Prodigal Son? The reading through the Bible in a year plan I am following features both Old Testament and New Testament each day led me to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and this time through the story I wondered how does this story speak to my leadership?
Some might say for leaders this is a great lesson in communication skills. Jesus is a master story teller and this one as well as the Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of his best. Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son lays out a case for why he reaches out for all people. The religious leaders complain about the people Jesus eats with. Jesus responds with a story that asks why aren’t you eating with us? Why aren’t you part of the celebration? The way He leaves the story hanging, seeking a response from his hearers of how the story ultimately ends in their life is powerful communication.
For myself this time around the leadership lesson is realizing the foundation of leadership that Jesus builds. I learned this last year in working through this parable with 3 resources: Tim Keller’s, “The Prodigal God”, Henri Nouwen’s, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and just about everything I could find by Kenneth E. Bailey who mines this parable from numerous angles and books.
Here’s the lesson and why it ties into the “what would you do” questions: God loves us. Whether we are more like the younger son or the older son, His love is there to count on, there to build on. That love is the foundation for leadership. That love took His Son to the cross. That love invites us to risk it all for Him.
Your not love by your performance, but by His gift. He doesn’t love you by your leadership position, the influence you have gained or the difference you have made, you are completely and totally loved by Him.
Rembrandt’s painting that Nouwen reflects on taught me this in 2 ways:
1. Look closely at the father’s hands. The father’s left hand is that of a man, his right hand is that of a woman. The father in the parable doesn’t care about his image, he cares about his sons. If he needs to risk his manliness by acting like a mom to his sons, he will. If he needs to man up, he will do that as well. That’s not a sexist observation, just a comment on the culture of the day and the lesson Jesus bring out when you dig into this great story.
2. All 3 characters are evident in my life. We perhaps can see this in the 2 sons. In our hearts there is a part that wanders from God, and a part that judges others while seeking to justify my own actions. But Nouwen adds those glorious moments when we live like the Father. We who have been touched by His love, love others.
The foundation for leadership is this love for God. In those rare and great leadership moments in learning to lead from that love, with that love and sharing that love with others. Whether I fail or not, I will still be loved by God. Whether I have all the money I need or not, I will still be loved by God. It’s why Jesus came. It’s why he tells the story, this incredible story.
That love is my foundation for leadership. It’s what I build my life on daily. How about you? What is your leadership foundation? How is it holding up?