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It's Hard to Argue with a Life So Well-Lived (Excerpt from Redefining Leadership by Joseph Stowell)

Categories Theology Book Excerpts

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we're reflecting on leadership that makes a difference. We think you'll be surprised by the following selection from Redefining Leadership by Joseph M. Stowell.

Redefining LeadershipKingdom leadership, the character-driven kind, is measured by the life of a leader who cuts a wide and impactful swath of positive influence because of who they are as a leader and how they lead. It’s the power of a life well lived. When he ushered in his kingdom, Jesus inaugurated a new way. He called for leaders to follow him and, as such, influence and motivate their followers toward personal, spiritual, communal, and organizational growth. Leaders who lead as followers of Jesus lead with the power of moral authority. And this highly leveraged leadership approach is available to all, even to those who may at first glance seem to be unlikely leaders.

Mother Teresa was an unlikely leader. She was a smallframed, bent-over nun who gave herself to serve the slum people of New Delhi in India. Asked to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., she delivered a powerful defense of valuing the life of the unborn. Hardly able to see over the podium, she courageously articulated the importance of protecting life. As she spoke, two of the most powerful leaders in the world — President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore — were seated on either side of her. Both of them were outspoken advocates of abortion.

She said,

I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.

And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life to love us. So the mother who is thinking of abortion should be helped to love — that is, to give until it hurts her plans or her free time — to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.

By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.

Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion (National Prayer Breakfast, February 3, 1994).

The statement drew a standing ovation.

Needless to say, her comments created a rather awkward moment for the President whose speech followed directly on the heels of Mother Teresa’s. When he began his speech, he said, “It’s hard to argue with a life so well lived!”

A life well lived gives power and credibility to even unlikely leaders and maximizes the outcomes of their ser vice. A leadership life that is well lived is the goal of every character-driven leader. And character-driven leaders believe that Paul’s words to the Colossians are defining targets for their leadership:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col. 3:12 – 17).

(Learn more about Joseph Stowell's book Redefining Leadership.)

"A revolutionary and life-shaping book on kingdom leadership, one rooted not in outcome-based theories about leadership but in theology — a kingdom-saturated and gospel-based theology where the leader is first a follower whose character is transformed by God’s grace. The revolution of this book is that God’s transformation of us makes us God’s kingdom leaders, and this is just the kind of leadership we need today. Five stars!"

--Scot McKnight

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