As we walked through the jungle of Bolivia, we came to one of the fastest flowing rivers I’d ever seen, Rio Selva. In movie like fashion, a suspension bridge hovered suspiciously over the mighty rushing water, drooping in the middle and with several boards missing. It was one of the most beautiful, majestic and terrifying displays of power I’d ever beheld. Although I did in fact cross the bridge, I did not take it lightly. This river’s flow caused a great reverence and respect to overtake all who walked its banks. A river like this is a force to be reckoned with. That’s the image I want to you grasp and the principle I hope you catch. Faith that flows is a force to be reckoned with. Evil doesn’t stand a chance when our faith has clearly defined banks through which it flows. However, when there are no banks through which a river can flow, it simply becomes a flood and floods are nothing but destructive. Faith is supposed to flow not flood.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus offered anyone willing to listen two very clear and concise riverbanks. Riverbanks cause us to become a flow and a force that has the power to wash away the evil in this world. What are the two riverbanks? Love and Leadership. Read the book of Acts and you will see these two glaring principles guiding the movement of the early followers of Jesus. They forged a great unity in the early church’s efforts. It was pretty simple to Paul, Peter, and the rest. The Messiah is alive. The Mandate is clear. Let’s look at these two in more depth.
The first is LOVE. This riverbank is sometimes called the Great Commandment and has to do with Jesus the Messiah. It is found most clearly in Matthew 22:37, which says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love, without a doubt, is a guide that causes our faith to flow. Loveless religion, however, is like a flooding field. It is useless and destructive. Marriages don’t die because someone chose to love with sacrifice. Churches don’t divide because the people loved God too much. Nations don’t fall when men are willing to lay down their lives for one another. It’s always when this riverbank is neglected, forgotten or even ignored that the value of our faith stops flowing and all the world sees is a flood. The Bible speaks of a day when “men’s love will grow cold.” We are living in that day. The need to rebuild the riverbank of love in our homes, workplaces, schools, and government halls has become urgent for people of faith. The Messiah is worthy of our wholehearted love and the church is rising up in our generation to love like never before.
The second is LEADERSHIP. This riverbank is called the Great Commission and has to do with Jesus’ Mandate. It is found most clearly, but not exclusively in Matthew 28:18-20, which says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” Leadership leaves no man behind. Tina Turner sang a song that boasted, “What’s love got to do with it?” Although leadership without love is oppressive, Love without leadership is unproductive. People of faith must not leave behind the great need to cast vision and solutions in the public squares. We must NOT be influenced to live out our faith privately as if it were something altogether separate from culture. Jesus defined those who followed him as “the light of the world.” He goes on to say, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand.” I believe this one of the best definitions of leadership. A light that brings life. Isn’t that what faith does? Isn’t that what flowing water does? Only love partnered with leadership can bring life. It’s a truth that remains inescapable.
How can we practically build love and leadership into our lives today. Let’s explore a few options in the form of questions.
1. Where am I being asked to demonstrate Christ’s love? Is it my marriage, my business, my school, or maybe my church? I suggest to start with the obvious and not to go hunting for an opportunity to love. I guarantee you that an opportunity to love will find you today. Love never fails!
2. Who am I being asked to lead? This is your opportunity to expand love’s reach through mentorship. Who in your life could journey with you? Who needs to know about the victories you’ve won? Who needs to know about the failures you’ve encountered? Don’t be afraid to lead. Leadership is simply shining a light towards other people’s path so that they can have clarity in their journey. Leadership helps people see that love is the most excellent expression of religion. Valuable and life-giving faith flows when love and leadership are found guiding God’s people.
The next time you see a river remember the reason why it’s not flooding is simple. It has clearly defined banks. You can too! May love and leadership cause your faith to flow like a river.