"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire" Matthew 5:21-22.
Have you ever read a portion of Scripture for, say, the hundredth time, when suddenly the Spirit of God penetrates your heart in a new way? This happened to me while reading Matthew 5 last fall. The more I meditated on Jesus' words, the more I came under the conviction that this text is not only tied to the Ten Commandments, but also to the sanctity of human life ethic — with profound applications for human relationships within pro-life ministries.
Jesus was saying that you can't call yourself His follower while hating a brother or sister made in the image of God. John echoes this thought in 1 John 4:20-21: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."
Strong words, yet how often have you witnessed any of the following?
Members of a center's board showing disdain for one another
Staff members refusing to get along
Directors maligning other leaders because there's a difference of philosophy or leadership style
Sadly, I've seen examples of each as I've worked with centers across the country.
As I studied Matthew 5, the Lord reminded me that calling myself pro-life profits me or the kingdom of God very little if regard for the sanctity of human life isn't written deeply on my heart. It must be reflected in my relationships with my wife, my children, other family members, co-workers, neighbors, members of the community (the store clerk, the waitress, etc.), and those whom I might classify as enemies (say, in the political realm).
You see, the sanctity of human life ethic begins with understanding that all people are made in the image of God. We're commanded to protect and respect them because they bear His image, not because they're innocent or conform to standards.
What does this have to do with board governance? Everything!
As I've shared in other columns, prayer is a basic function of leadership. It's a core principle that a ministry must be founded on prayer, yet if its leaders are at odds, how can they seek the mind of the Lord? (Amos 3:3). How can the Holy Spirit lead a group whose members lack respect for each other and who fail to reflect His love and loyalty?
As I've shared this message with struggling boards and other ministries, it's as though a light goes on. It's been exciting to see the pro-life ethic bring about the proper transformation and restoration.
In practical terms, what does it look like when people embrace the pro-life ethic with their whole hearts?
They don't show contempt for fellow image-bearers, but rather treat them with love, honor, and respect.
They don't seek to resolve conflicts with a "win," but rather with relationships intact or improved.
They don't tear down other ministries, but rather speak well of them (James 3:8-10).
They don't demonize (dehumanize) people who advocate abortion, but rather love them, pray for them, do good to them ... without expecting or demanding kindness in return (Luke 6:27-36).
This last point is borne out in Proverbs 24:17-18. We frequently quote verses 10-12 in calling people to act on behalf of the unborn, but a few verses later the Bible says, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him." We have the same Maker! We are to throw the mantle of mercy over our "enemies," the same one that covers us. Jesus is our ultimate example. He loves, whether or not a person bows the knee to Him (John 3:16).
What results can we expect? I believe we will:
See God's name glorified.
Know the mind of God.
Experience unity of mission and purpose.
Have fun working together.
See God enlarge the borders of our ministries, with more people served and blessed.
See more people coming to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Be able to bless our staff members and volunteers because we have the empowerment and resources to do the work of the ministry ("God's work God's way").
Now more than ever, the world needs to see Jesus in His people. Jesus has promised that He'll empower us through His spirit to serve people and make a difference in their lives. We can have that power as we place Him on the throne of our lives and commit ourselves to servant leadership. In the end, righteousness will prevail in our ministries and in our various communities. As in the days of Noah, God's stamp of approval will be upon the faithful (Genesis 6:5-9).
Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide
in Grand Rapids, Michigan.