In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about the first of three core values we must carry to live and lead with the Father’s heart: We were made for freedom. I also explained that the whole purpose for our freedom is that it makes love and connection possible—which brings us to our second core value: We were made for connection.
This core value is really the main theme of the Bible:
- Creation: we were created in the image of a relational God for connection.
- Fall: Our connection with God, ourselves, each other, and creation was broken by sin.
- Redemption: Jesus paid the price to restore our connection with the Godhead.
- Restoration: Walking in this reconciled connection leads to the healing of all relationships.
The arc of this story tells us two things:
First, the Father is relentless in His pursuit of connection with us. And it’s not a loose, superficial, on-and-off connection, or an oppressive, controlling connection that He’s after, but a deep, loving, safe, heart-to-heart connection.
Second, the Father’s heart for us is that we would mature into sons and daughters who are capable of forming connections that are enduring and resilient to everything that violates connection—that is, sin. The whole purpose of Jesus’ work of redemption and restoration in our lives is to enable us to overcome sin as we learn to walk in healthy connection with Father, Son, Holy Spirit, ourselves, and one another.
The account of Adam and Eve’s sin in Genesis 3 lays out the basic ingredients of how we violate connection and end up living in cycles of disconnection:
- We believe the enemy’s lies about God and ourselves.
- We try to get things we want by ourselves, on our own terms.
- When we realize we messed up, we double down on shame and fear by hiding and blame-shifting.
These are the three areas we must go after as we learn to live in our design for connection and lead with the Father’s heart.
Trusting the Truth
The enemy always paints God as out to lunch or the bad guy. He wants us to think that we don’t need Him and can’t trust Him. When we misidentify God like this and believe lies about His character and heart toward us, we inevitably misidentify ourselves in relationship to Him. As long as we try to operate from this orphan identity, it’s impossible for us to form healthy connections, because it’s an identity built on mistrust.
Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson theorized that learning to trust is the foundation of our psychosocial development—it’s what enables us to form relational bonds, and a sense of our own identity and worth as we participate in those bonds.
This applies perfectly to our journey of learning to walk in our true relational identity as sons and daughters. The foundation of our growth as believers is learning to trust God. Every lesson we must learn to build and protect connection with Him—looking to Him as our provider and comforter, following His lead, and staying loyal to Him in the face of difficulty—comes back to that primary issue.
For this reason, every leader who wants to represent the heart of the Father should work to create a culture that constantly encourages and equips people to trust God. For example, if you ever spend any time around Bill Johnson or Bethel Church, you’ll hear: “God is good. He’s better than you think.” This isn’t some Christian mantra. It’s a culture of leadership that keeps a laser focus on the Father’s character and heart toward us and constantly reminds us that we can trust Him. This is also the reason why Bethel has such a huge focus on worship and declaring the testimonies of God. It’s all about reminding us to trust Him.
Isaiah 53:6 says, “. . . each of us has turned to our own way.” As we learn to trust the Father, we make the choice to do things His way. But His way is the way of connection, which means learning to do it “our” way. Instead of running off and trying to make things happen for ourselves, we learn to keep in step with God and others who are pursuing Him together.
The New Testament is filled with metaphors that describe the organic interdependence in which we were made to live and thrive:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
. . . from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:16 NKJV)
Isolation and independence leave us weak and vulnerable to shipwreck, but wisdom, strength, and safety flow into our lives when we learn to live in partnership with others. This is why team leadership is the standard in the body of Christ, both in the home and at church, because it puts on display the strength that comes from living in interdependence. Every time a couple or a leadership team does the hard work to communicate honestly, meet one another’s needs, wait for each other, and make decisions together, they are showing people how to live connected.
Practicing Forgiveness and Repentance
Some people have the crazy idea that we should expect Christians—especially Christian leaders—never to make any relational messes. Okay, yes, one day in eternity, we will be perfect at relationships like God is. But we are all learning, and what we are learning is not how never to mess up, but how to clean up our messes.
In the garden, Adam and Eve tried to hide the mess and blame it on each other and the serpent. Just as they had gone their own way in making the mess, they tried to go their own way in cleaning up the mess. But when we learn the way of connection, we clean up the mess God’s way, and that is through forgiveness and repentance. These are the only things that actually repair broken relationships and teach us how to prevent harming them in the future.
One of the most important ways leaders demonstrate the Father’s heart is by walking out true forgiveness and repentance in their relationships. Humbling ourselves, being willing to feel the pain we have caused others, and doing what we need to do to change creates a pathway for others around us to deal with their own messes.
Coming up next week is Part 3: The Core Value of Honor!