What Tess Taught Me

Jesus new robe manThe following is the 21st chapter of my essay on Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians, called:  “Leaders see people through their potential in Christ.”       

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.   16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old has gone, the new has come!”   2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Many years ago we had a woman in our church family named “Tess.” She was a challenge to pastor (to say the very least!). Tess had no small “personality disorder,” and though sincere in her faith, she was socially challenged. Her “disorder” frankly gave me a headache as I tried to clean up one relationship mess after another, which seemed to follow her everywhere she went. I found myself resenting her and wishing she’d suddenly get a calling to the church down the street.

One day as I was complaining to the Lord about having to deal with yet another “Tess-mess,” the Holy Spirit urged me to take a different mental posture toward her. He challenged me to begin viewing her in light of her future glorified state in heaven! He wanted me to think of her in her future perfected and flawless condition, and then work at helping her to make progress toward that end.

As I practiced this, I began to experience a new love and patience for Tess that seemed impossible before. She was no longer a problematic parishioner, but rather a person on her way to ultimate perfection. I found myself happy (at least happier) about the privilege of partnering with God in the perfecting of one of his beloved saints!

As a spiritual leader, how I view the people with whom I have influence is key. I can’t afford to view others “from a worldly point of view.” Paul described this worldly point of view a few verses earlier when he referred to those who “take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart” (verse 12). He then confesses that it was in this way he once viewed Jesus. That is, he looked at the Lord from an earthly perspective, from the vantage point of merely what he could see with his natural eyes and his earthly reasoning. When people look at Christ that way they have no special respect for him, because, from the outside, he “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). But once we saw him from the vantage point of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit helping us to see his intrinsic worthiness, we instantly respected him for Who he is.

That same process needs to happen between us and our brothers and sisters. We have to see them from that same vantage point of the spirit, as “new creatures in Christ.” Spiritual leaders in particular have to take on this spiritual perspective with a view to the eternal perfection of those we lead. We need to see them as those for whom Christ died, and in whom Christ is living and laboring for their maturity. They not only have an eternal destiny, but an eternal power to fulfill it! The people I care for have every heavenly resource that they need in Christ to be all that they can be! “The old has gone and the new has come!” 

After that, when I saw Tess coming, instead of running the other way, I walked toward her with an aspiration of finding ways to partner with God in the work of art he was in the process of finishing.


Let’s be practical

  • I can tell if I’m viewing people from a “worldly point of view” by the attitudes I exhibit when I observe them living below their potential. How’s your attitude about the failures of those you lead (see Romans 14:4)? Have a conversation with the Lord about it now.
  • Think about one such person who has, let’s say, many miles to go in their spiritual maturation, and tend to make your discipling role in their life more difficult than you’d hoped. Examine your attitude toward them, and determine whether your perspective is spiritual or carnal. Repent, if need be.

Do you have a “Tess” in your life right now? Or, are you a Tess to someone else?! Either way, we’ll all be better one day. Share this with someone who might benefit from it, especially a pastor friend. And tell ’em you’re praying for ’em.

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