I recently re-read Romans 12 for the first time. You know how that works, right? I swear that chapter wasn’t in my Bible the last time I read it; I think it stopped after verse 2.

If the entire chapter is not about leadership, then at least we can agree that it has a lot to say about leadership. Over the next few months, I’m going to spend some time meditating on its messages for leaders. Let’s start with the more familiar verses.

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him….

3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us….

You can’t study this passage without overlaying Philippians 2: consider others better than yourselves, having the same attitude as Christ, who chose sacrifice and service over ambition. In a sense, Philippians goes one step further than this passage, both in evaluation of yourself — consider others better — and in sacrifice — “Be like Christ.” I hate that one, because it’s so out of reach for most of us.

The unique thing about this reference to sacrifice is that, in the Bible, most sacrifices involve death. When I was growing up, I remember one of my pastors saying that it’s easier to die for Christ than to live for Christ, because dying for him means sucking up all your faith and courage one time… and then it’s over. Living for Christ means making those decisions over and over, and living with the consequences.

Leadership is all about sacrifice. Good leaders put their time, energy, blood, sweat and tears into their role. It’s a life of faith and courage over and over, dealing with the consequences long after a decision was made. The Bible says it’s a life of accountability, where teachers and leaders are held responsible for the way their followers turn out. And many times, it’s a thankless role, drawing criticism from every direction.

Lest you think I’ve lost perspective, let me throw in something Tony Blair said at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. One day when he had a particularly high number of barbs thrown at him, and they were getting to him, his wife offered these comforting words: “What are you complaining about? It’s a privilege to do the job!” Yes, leadership is a privilege, but it’s also a living sacrifice. I think that’s how Paul felt.

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