the one. Not the crowd. Not the masses. But about how you treat the one.
Jesus repeatedly demonstrated this in his ministry.
To those who murmured at Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them, he told this parable:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4-7).
From this parable, Kenneth E. Baily makes a keen observation:
“It is the shepherd’s willingness to go after the one that gives the ninety-nine their real security. If the one is sacrificed in the name of the larger group, then each individual in the group is insecure, knowing that he or she will be left to die. When the shepherd pays a high price to find the one, he thereby offers the profoundest security to the many.”
Jesus embodied concern for the one. Today we read the stories of Jesus and how he stopped and engaged with men and women. He fogged out the crowd when the woman in adultery was cast down before him. Neither do I condemn you! He gave Nicodemus time and understanding when he could have been sleeping one night. When a woman with an issue of blood touched him, he set aside his agenda to focus on her physical needs. He spoke with compassion to the thief on the cross. Time and again Jesus said, “YOU are the most important thing to me.” Today we read with delight the stories of Christ’s compassion for those who came into his path.
As leaders, the way we treat the one – the broken, the hungry, the critic, the sincere questioner, the thief – communicates a strong message to all those we lead. “When the shepherd pays a high price to find the one, he thereby offers the profoundest security to the many.” Maybe it’s time we adjusted our ministry glasses to see that the most important person is the one who stands before us at any given time. Effective leadership always reduces itself to how we treat the one.
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- Having been in the secular workplace for the past few years, I have observed this to be true time and time again. The way management treats the one filters throughout the entire organization. The treatment of the one becomes the dominate narrative for employees. It becomes the story of how anyone in the organization will be treated given similar circumstances. It has the power to create employee trust and allegiance to the company, or dissatisfaction and a desire for greener pastures.
- I have found this to be true in the classroom. The way a teacher responds to one honest seeker–or even the critic–communicates to class members whether it is safe to ask questions and engage in the teaching moment. When a teacher responds to the one, she is really responding to the whole and sending powerful signals to students as they make decisions to engage or not. (After all, nobody wants to be made to look dumb!)
- It is true in ministry. I learned early on as a youth minister how many students vie for your attention, especially after church services. Often young people are lined up seeking your counsel. I learned to always focus my eyes on the one who got there first, then focus on the next, and then the next. I learned that five minutes of focused attention with the person before you is one of the most powerful gifts you can ever offer. It is the gift of yourself.
Leadership really is about