A wise leader was teaching a group of “leaders to be” and he made a provocative statement ” When someone comes to you and asks for permission to do something in the organization, let your answer always be ‘yes.’” Yes? Yes!
In my years of ministry, both as a Protestant pastor and now as an Orthodox priest, I’ve found this to be solid advice for leadership. My main task as a parish priest is to empower my faithful to be just that: faithful. To lead them to discover their own giftings and ministries within the community so that they become what they were Chrismated to be in the first place, the Royal Priesthood; active and participating in the work of ministry in the community and active in growing in their faith and the vision of what “can be.” And the best way for me to lead them is to say “Yes” when they come to me and ask to do something, until saying “yes” would be harmful! But this assumption of freedom and permission should permeate our parishes so that we instill confidence and not timidity in our people. You know, like God leads us!
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 1:12-20:
Brethren, our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have behaved in the world, and still more toward you, with holiness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God. For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand; I hope you will understand fully, as you have understood in part, that you can be proud of us as we can be of you, on the day of the Lord Jesus.
Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favor; I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans like a worldly man, ready to say Yes and No at once? For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God.
Our Apostle Paul is continuing his wisdom to his Corinthian community and he’s setting up his wisdom to get to the point of the letter in the first place and that is to quiet down some criticism of him personally and to deal with some pastoral problems there involving a member of the parish that had been disciplined but had learned his lesson. You see, there were some folks complaining about their pastor (I bet that sounds familiar!) and how often Paul had promised to come see them but circumstances prevented him. This had some folks claiming that Paul wasn’t being honest with them and that stated the criticism coming!
Notice that Paul mixes the sublime with the practical. He deals with the criticism head-on and he spells it out for them in clear language. He insists that his communication style is plain on purpose so that there isn’t any misunderstanding. But he also “sweetens” his words with a loving attitude toward even those who’ve complained about him! He wants to assure these folks that a true follower of Jesus Christ means what he says when he says it. His “yes” means “yes” and his “no” means “no.” There isn’t any attempt to be dishonest in speech or behavior. In other words, Paul would have made a lousy politician!
And he ends this defense of his honesty by appealing to the Person of Jesus Christ. This is the consistent message preached by all the leaders there at Corinth. God isn’t a “Yes” means “No” God. When God says “Yes” He means “Yes.” And Paul reaches way out into the depths of sublime theology when he says that “all the promises of God find their “yes” in Him.” All God has promised humanity God intends to fulfill in you and me. He’s not going to change His mind about His Promises BECAUSE of Who He is! He is “Yes” and we respond with “Amen.” We embrace His “Yes” for us by adding our willful embrace of His promises to us!
Today, are you broken-hearted by a society where it seems a man’s word isn’t nearly as dependable as it used to be? Do you see the spiritual cancer of saying one thing and doing another? Perhaps then it’s time to stop looking around you for consistency and start looking up! Doing that will be the strongest source of consistent “Yes” you’ll ever have!