The Habit of Intimate Community
Henri Nouwen once noted a consistent pattern in the daily life of Jesus that proceeded from solitude to community to service. The time Jesus spent in fellowship with His disciples seems to have been for their benefit and His.
Among the twelve that He called out to be His apostles, Jesus had a small group of three—Peter, James, and John—with whom He seemed to have a particularly close relationship. He took these three with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration, where He revealed to them, in confidence, the true nature of His being (Matthew 17:1–9). The same three men were present when Jesus raised the daughter of the synagogue leader from the dead (Mark 5:21–43).
The most poignant and instructive episode involving this inner circle of intimate friendships occurred on the night Jesus would be arrested and start His final journey to the cross. In Matthew 26:37–38, we read,
“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ ”
Leadership can be a lonely business filled with great amounts of soul-draining human interaction but little soul-filling intimacy. Without some safe-harbor relationships where we can lay down all the armor and weapons needed to face the world and relax in confidence and unguarded communion, we become vulnerable to two debilitating frames of mind and spirit—the victim and the martyr. Allowed to blossom into resentment or a self-justification for seeking EGO-soothing instant gratification, these twin demons have been the downfall of many a leader in every walk of life.
Jesus emphasized the importance of a sense of communion of spirit in His prayer for His followers to attain the joy that He had in unity and fellowship with His Father. Jesus told His disciples,
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.... My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants. Because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I call you friends; for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:9, 12–15)
When we rely on our own perspective of how we are doing, we are bound to slip into convenient rationalizations and blind spots that can quickly undermine our integrity and trust of those who look to us for leadership.
Written by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges