Leading in the Light
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. –John 3:19-21-
John says that Jesus was the light, meaning he is the hope as the one who can reconcile humankind both vertically and horizontally. John describes resisting the light for fear of being exposed. There is an initial entrance into the life referenced in this passage, but there is also the daily choice to live in the light as the means of growth and transformation.
Leaders face unique challenges with the power of position, status, and the lure of selfish ambition. Power can corrupt those who began their leadership journey with a noble intent. In the grind and depletion that can come with the roles, leaders can become disillusioned. They also can fall into the trap of finding the taste of power that comes with leadership or prestige to be addictive.
Coming into the light in John 3 means we choose to trust the gardener with their pruning sheers, embracing our need for transformation (John 15). It is not a onetime act though; it is an initial groundbreaking act to choose to step into the light that reorients our life. The daily resting in the light and choice to be exposed by the light is where healthy spiritual leadership is forged. When we want to find cover for acts of selfishness, for holding onto power, or feeding our ego, we can only look to the darkness. Much like Adam and Eve hiding in the garden as the Lord came to them (Genesis 3). Soon we find, with them, that the darkness is only an illusion of cover, a temporary relief from the light.
When we reject light, all we are left with is darkness.
In the darkness dysfunction and pain grow unchecked. Hurt begets hurt, and we are diminished from our full potential, our most alive humanity. The darkness is the place where pretense, posturing, and positioning rule, presenting our false self to the world while disease spreads internally with no remedy. Leaders who choose to live in the darkness will ultimately cause compounding pain to their team members, customers/clients/constituents, and to all who put their trust in them.
Servant leaders embrace the light by living honestly and authentically both vertically and horizontally. They embrace the goodness of their “edges” being exposed and smoothed out. They choose to face their own brokenness and shadow missions for the sake of those they lead, knowing if they do not face these inner realities, they will eventually come to the surface in unhelpful ways.
Servant leaders know that the pain of living in the light and embracing humility, accountability, and stewardship, is not an instrument of death but a gift of life.