One of the major issues facing us today is the role of women in leadership. As I pondered the kind of leadership it might be our privilege as ministers' wives to give, my mind turned to this statement: "The greatest work that can be done in our world is to glorify God by living the character of Christ." 1 I believe it is our mission as women of the church.
How can we live the character of Christ? By adopting Jesus' methods and associating with others as He associated with those whom He was seeking to save, we can reflect His character. Ellen G. White's book Education identifies 10 characteristics of the way the Master approached His task of leadership.'
Christ came with the accumulated love of eternity.
One day I asked my granddaughter how much she loved me. She thought a few minutes, then holding out her little arms, she said, "Grandma, my arms aren't big enough to show you." I thought this was such a beautiful illustration—there is no way that we can really comprehend the meaning of Christ's coming to this world with the accumulated love of eternity. If Christ's love permeates our efforts to bring our fellowmen to Him, then our mission as ministers' wives will be successful, because love is the foundation of all growth —physical, mental and spiritual.
Christ had an understanding heart.
It has been said that he who seeks to transform humanity must himself understand humanity. Christ alone had perfect understanding. Such understanding of others may include sympathy (feeling sorry for someone) but more importantly, it includes empathy (feeling sorry with someone).
When one of our boys was just a little fellow, his much loved terrier was run over. As he thought of Spotty, he sat on the back step silently weeping, tears running down his cheeks. A little neighbor girl came over and seeing his tears asked, "What's the matter?"
My son answered, "Spotty got run over."
She looked at him a minute and then asked, "Dead?"
He said, "Dead."
Then she sat down beside him, put her arm around him, and began to cry copiously. She had an understanding heart, She not only felt sorry for him, she was sorry with him.
Not only did Christ come with the accumulated love of eternity, but since He created men and women, He has perfect understanding of them. If we are to meet the world's needs, we must, like Solomon, pray, "Give . . thy servant an understanding heart."
Christ reasoned from cause to effect.
We see people doing things that seem very strange to us and we ask, "How can they behave like that?" Our question comes because we do not understand the circumstances of their lives. But Christ reasoned from cause to effect. In order to understand what this means, come with me to the temple court, where Christ and some of His disciples have gathered. A group congregates around Him as He teaches. Suddenly a shuffling sound captures their attention, and turning they see a group of men half dragging, half pushing a woman toward Christ. When these men reach Him, they say, "This woman was caught in the act of adultery. Shall we stone her? The law of Moses says she should be stoned."
These men have no concern for the woman and little for her sin. Their intent is to trap Christ. If He says, "Yes, stone her," then they can go to the Roman rulers and say, "Jesus has assumed authority that is reserved for you." If He says, "Don't stone her," they can claim before the rest of the Jewish people that He rejects the law of Moses.
Jesus takes in the entire situation. He reads the story of the woman's life—reasoning from cause to effect. He knows that the very individuals who dragged her into His presence led her into this sin.
Acting as though He has not heard their question, Jesus leans down and writes in the dust, where the next breeze will erase what he has written. 1 have often wondered just what He wrote. But you know the story—as He writes, one by one the accusers shamefacedly leave. Then, looking up, Jesus says to the woman, "Rath no man condemned thee?"
And for the first time the poor, frightened woman dares to lift her eyes and look into His face. The understanding she reads there is confirmed by His words, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more."
Because He looked behind the effects to the causes, Christ understood people. While He did not condone sin, He was willing to forgive the sinner. If we could understand the lives of those whom we might condemn, we too would say, "I do not condemn thee."
Christ associated closely with those whom He hoped to save.
Scripture says He "dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The original Greek word for dwelt raises the imagery of Christ pitching His tent among the tents of the sons of men. He did not teach from His exalted position above the common people—He approached them in all their activities. Those whom He chose to be His close followers ate, lived and traveled with Him.
We cannot uplift or help those whom we despise or consider less privileged. If we are to have an influence as leaders, then we too must walk the path of those whom we want to help.
Christ was a faithful reprover of sin.
"Christ was a faithful reprover of sin. Never was there another who so hated evil." His denunciation of sin was sometimes strong. You will remember He said to Peter once, "Get thee behind me, Satan." And He called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. But His love drew those whom He reproved. He ever spoke the truth with love. He never needlessly wounded a sensitive soul. Could that be said of us? "Of the rebuke that is love, of the blow that wounds to heal, of the warning that speaks hope, they [those who are dealing with the tempted and erring' have need to learn" (brackets supplied).4
Christ taught people individually.
He did not speak just to the masses—and even when He did, He watched the individual faces. When a face revealed doubt or lack of comprehension, He added further illustrations of the principle He was teaching.
As He taught, Christ used illustrations with which the people were familiar.
He did not speak in abstract terms. "Consider the lily," He said as He walked by the way. Seeing a wedding procession going by, He spoke of 10 wedding guests. Teaching in the country, He told of a man sowing his field.
If we are to be leaders and teachers, we must use illustrations common to the lives of our hearers. Not only will such illustrations communicate better, but as the incidents we speak of recur in the lives of our hearers, they will be reminded of the lesson taught.
Christ saw infinite possibilities in every individual whom He sought to save.
I think often of those who come to us, people we meet by the way. Sometimes we arc tempted to say, "There is no hope for that individual. Look at his background. Look where she comes from." But Christ saw in every individual the infinite possibilities that were his or hers if that person were transformed by divine love. If we are to be Christ's representatives and reflect His character, we must regard no person as hopeless or of little value. We do not know what Christ intends to do with the apparently useless material.
I can never forget a young man who came to school when I was in the sixth grade. An orphan, Charles had to work for a living, and had been passed from one family to another. Then one day a representative from the academy visited the community where Charles lived and invited him to attend the school. I Inspired at 16 years of ago, he attended classes with 11- and 12-year old children.
Returning to school wasn't easy. Charles spent his summers canvassing and often came back to school in rags. Though his studies were difficult for him, he never gave up. Eventually he dedicated his life to medical missionary work and to the uplifting of humanity. Today there is a hospital named for Charles.
Many folks would have said, "it's a waste of effort to put Charles back into school at his age." But Christ saw infinite possibilities where others only saw useless material.
Because He looked upon people with trust, Christ inspired hope.
When Christ and His disciples were passing through Gadara, two demoniacs ran out calling, "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of David? Leave us—get away" But even in their curses Christ heard the cry for help, and looking upon them with trust, He inspired hope. They saw in His glance the assurance that there was a future for them.
When we look upon people with hope, we inspire trust and when there is trust, there is growth. This characteristic of the Master, to reveal trust to the individual, enables that individual to be of great use in the Lord's work.
The principle of showing trust and confidence is especially important when one is working with young people. I learned a valuable lesson about trusting young people when one of our sons, who was working at the General Conference printing press, first learned to drive. i had been hesitant to give him a set of keys to the family car. Then one day he came into the house swinging a set of keys on his finger. When I asked him what keys they were, he answered, "They are the keys to the boss's new car. He trusts me! He has asked me to deliver some printing jobs in downtown D.C."
Not until several years later did I discover how important being trusted by the boss was to this 16-year old. One of his friends told me the story. The day that he and another of our son's friends learned that the boss had given our son the keys to the new car, they got a bright idea. They took the bus to a shop where they knew he was delivering a package of printing. When he came out of the shop, one of them said, "The boss won't know how long it takes you to make your deliveries. We'll just get into the car with you and you can drive us out to the wrecking yard to get the part we need for our hot rod club."
The friend said, "Your son looked at the keys for a moment and then replied, 'I know he won't check on my time, but he trusted me and I can't betray his trust.' "
Finally, Christ lived what He taught.
If this can be said of us, then we will be effective leaders. But we can live the faith that we profess only if Christ dwells in our hearts. We cannot, by our own talents or gifts, draw sinners to our Savior.
Christ lived to bless others because that was His nature. The love that filled His heart caused Him to reach out to all those around Him. If we, who are ministers' wives, are to be His representatives, if we are to fulfill our mission by reflecting His character, then we must live and work in the spirit of Christ.
1 Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 439.
2 Education, pp. 73-96.
3 Ibid., p. 79.
4 Acts of the Apostles, pp. 73-96.