By Laura Adkins
Are you a positive leader or a negative leader? I find that many of the lessons I emphasize to the middle school students I teach apply to my life as well. Though I know in my head that God does not want me to share gossip or exclude anyone, when I hear about a colleague or see a friend who is annoying me, my default is the wrong choice—spread the gossip, ignore the friend. If I have been accepted by Christ and am truly confident in his love for me, why do I still crave acceptance and a stamp of approval from the world?
Positive and Negative Leaders
A positive leader, I tell the students, is one who will ignore gossip. A positive leader will invite a person who has been banned from one group to be a part of their group (even if the positive leader will then be under attack from a negative leader). Basically, a positive leader is a person who is able to rise above the drama and be a person of integrity, inclusivity, and kindness. In the passage John warned against the effects of the negative leader, Diotrephes, who was gossiping, ignoring, and excluding.
Christ—the Ultimate Leader
We know that involving ourselves with sowing seeds of discord—whether through gossip, exclusion, or another vice—is not the way Christ modeled for us. The lepers were physically separated from society, yet Christ welcomed and healed many. Prostitutes, tax collectors, and other “sinners” had all been shunned and excluded from Jewish rites and society, yet Christ called them to his side.
My fear of not being accepted and loved drives me to make choices that cause discord and drama. I must practice activating the love of Christ in my life. The next time a colleague shares gossip with me, I will respond, “I don’t think this information is appropriate to share. It sounds like the person wanted this information kept private.” Do I have the confidence in Christ’s love to respond in such a way? I hope.
Are you sowing seeds of discord in your community? If so, how can you stop?
Laura Adkins lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband, Terry. She teaches 6th grade Language Arts at The Summit Country Day School.