As many of you know, my wife and I are having our first child coming up here in a few weeks (due date is May 26th!). With this major life change comes many important decisions we’ll have to make–one of the first of those being her name.
A name is a huge part of a person’s life. It truly is our identity in that when our name is spoken, we will respond to it for all of our lives. A name also becomes the verbal symbol of who we are in that when people hear it, they’ll think of us. A name can also provide meaning (our baby’s name–Emery–means brave, powerful, and industrial).
In Matthew 1: 23, we find the meaning of the most important person’s name whoever lived–Jesus. His name means “God with us.” This meaning provides so much insight into who Jesus is that I could write for pages upon pages about it. However, today I want to focus on two points:
- What His name means for salvation
- What His name means for leadership
First of all, the most beautiful part of “God with us” is what it means for our salvation. In all other religions, the idea is for people to try to work towards achieving salvation by pleasing a deity or achieving “nirvana” through rightful works or being “good enough.” That is to say that if God were atop a mountain and we were at the bottom, we would have to successfully climb our way up it through our own efforts to achieve our salvation.
In Christianity, God tells us that we will never be “good enough” based on our own efforts yet He loves us so much that He came down to earth, humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, and earned salvation for us on our behalf. That is to say that if God were atop a mountain and we were at the bottom, He freely decided to descend said mountain, offer us a free ride up the mountain, and do all the work for us by taking us up Himself so that we may receive the salvation at the top. All we must do is accept the free ride.
This has numerous ramifications for us but here are three simple ones:
- It simplifies our salvation. No longer do we have to work towards some sort of arbitrary goal of being “good” or achieving some sort of perfect state of being. All we have to do is accept God’s gift that He freely offers us and then trust and follow Him to the best of our abilities.
- It liberates us from wondering if our actions are good enough to make us right by God. Through His work on the cross, we can do good works not because it selfishly earns us points towards our salvation, but we do so cheerfully to obey God, serve others, and follow His will without having to compare ourselves to those around us or balancing our good deeds against our bad.
- It allows for forgiveness of sins since being perfect or even “good” is acknowledged as being an impossible feat for humans to achieve. As long as we’re sincerely following Christ, we can have the confidence in knowing when we do mess up, God will forgive us if we ask with a repentant heart and humble spirit.
Personally, these truths have made my life so much simpler. When I look at my past, I know God has forgiven me for my mess ups. When I look at my present, I know God is in control and the only thing I need to worry about is following Him to the best of my ability. When I look to my future, I know my salvation is already paid for and I can live confidently knowing I find my identity in Christ and nothing else. There is no need to compare myself to others’ achievements or even to my own expectations of “success.” As long as I follow God’s will, I will be a “success” in the only way that truly matters–through His eyes.
The second point I want to touch on is much more secondary and doesn’t quite have the eternal implications of the previous. However, I do feel like God coming down to earth didn’t only show us how to receive salvation but also gave us a glimpse into how can go about living our lives–including how we should look at leadership.
All of us at some point will be required to lead in some capacity. Whether it’s leading others through our roles in our jobs, becoming a parent and leading our children, teaching or being a role model for someone else, or simply organizing any sort of event or activity whatsoever, we will all at some point in our lives be called a leader.
There’s lots of great ideas and philosophies out there on how to be a quality leader and I’m sure they’ve all got great ideas and aspects involved with them. However, God (being the ultimate leader) humbling Himself, coming down to earth, living amongst those “beneath Him,” and leading them not through His position of authority but through serving amongst us, I think shows us the ultimate lesson in leadership.
Matthew 20: 25-28 sums it up best:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
What does this tell us in regards to leadership?
In our role as a leader, do we sit atop our leadership “mountain” demanding those beneath us rise up to our will? Or do we, like Christ, descend from our “leadership throne” to be amongst those we’re leading and not only work alongside them but actually serve them as Christ served us?
I think the below illustration gives a great representation on the different views of leadership. The leader on the left represents how many in our society view leadership as it being an opportunity to be on top and “rule over” those beneath us whereas the leader on the right is the type of leader Christ modeled for us and calls us to be as this leader works alongside those he leads in a humble and loving way.
The biggest takeaway here is when God does bless you with an opportunity to lead, rather it’s in your job, at home, or simply for a brief moment in time, do so with a humble attitude and loving heart. If the God of the universe–who is in fact perfect and better than all of us–could humble Himself and do so than it should not be asking too much of us–who in no way can call ourselves perfect or even “better” than those we lead–to do so in kind.
There are lots of powerful insights we can gather when reflecting upon God’s wonderful name. How truly blessed we are that God chose to live among us both in flesh through His Son Jesus 2000 years ago and now amongst us through His Holy Spirit.
Praise His Holy Name!