Clarity Is Kindness



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 15:22–29 

Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. With them they sent the following letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:


We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.



Today’s text from Acts 15 offers some tremendous wisdom for leaders of all stripes, for any kind of organization, and every family unit on the planet. Permit me to enumerate a few observations.

1. Authority without autocracy. They exercised power without force or pressure. They did not issue a cease-and-desist order here and yet it is clear about a few requirements. It is also clear about who has authority and who does not. People who have clarity about the responsibility of power know how to exercise authority without being authoritarian.

2. Clarity amidst confusion. They took at least three decisive steps to ensure a clear understanding. First, they wrote a clear letter. Second, they chose the Gentiles’ representatives from the church at Antioch: Paul and Barnabas. They did not send the papal brass (i.e., Peter). Third, they did send a couple of their own representatives vested with authority to confirm by “word of mouth” the contents of the letter. (I suspect this was for the benefit of those circumcision-happy Pharisees.) Note also they did not send low-level bureaucrats to accompany Paul and Barnabas. They sent highly decorated lieutenant colonel types—yet they sent people whose authority came more from their witness than their rank.

3. Listen. Empathy. Empathy. Empathy. Note how the letter began with the recognition of the anxiety felt by the Gentiles. They acknowledged not only what had happened—the unauthorized exercise of power—but they recognized the Gentiles’ “disturbed” and “troubled” fragile emotional state. Empathy may be the rarest and yet single most important quality a leader can possess and demonstrate. At the core of empathy is the highly underrated practice of listening. This is not to be confused with the squishy sentimentalism we so often see in the ranks of people-pleasing leaders. Research shows the average person listens for eighteen seconds before interrupting with their own question, insight, or assertion. 

4. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .” They exercised true Spirit-filled leadership without playing the God-card. This was not a throw up your hands and shrug your shoulders, “This comes from the top and there’s nothing we can do about it,” moment. They personally owned the decision they together discerned in the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

5. Pastoral, decisive, unapologetic. They framed the new requirements pastorally, decisively, and unapologetically. No hem-hawing around here. Clear leadership.

Perhaps I’m reading into this too much through modern leadership lenses, and I do not intend to wrap the first-century church in a best business practices cover, but I think the text warrants such observations. What do you think?

The big takeaway: The way decisions get made and carried out is as important as the decisions themselves. Effective leaders see them as one and the same. And, yes, clarity is kindness. 


Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Amen. 


Are you quick and patient to listen or quick to interrupt and interject? Do you consider yourself a good listener? Do you have a growing capacity for empathy? It may be the most important (and rare) skill in life. What do you make of this matter of clarity and kindness and the corollary? 


Today we will sing “Trust and Obey” (hymn 334) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. New shipments arriving now. Use Code: WAKEUPCALL for free shipping through the end of May (does not apply to bulk orders). 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. Yes! In every way the leadership of the Mother Church in Jerusalem lived up to their calling by exercising the Spiritual virtues of kindness, compassion and the truth spoken in love. Jesus had warned his apostles not to lord it over their charges like the Gentile leadership does. This incident demonstrates that they took it to heart. Unfortunately, church history reveals many examples where later leadership did otherwise.

  2. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
    Theodore Roosevelt

  3. The Shortest Letter in the New Testament (Only Has 7 Verses)

    The apostles (sent ones) and elders (spiritually mature older Christ-followers) in Jerusalem (the center of Jewish Christianity) wrote a letter that freed Christianity from the treasured religious traditions and demands of Jewish ritual and regulations. Instead of just following their own desires and opinions, the sent one and the spiritually mature older Christ-followers in Jerusalem agreed with and embraced what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit.”

    Their letter opened up faith in Christ to everyone regardless of their religious background. It set non-Jewish people free to directly and continually follow and obey the risen Jesus without the burden of being compelled to adhere to religious rites or a human hierarchy. Because of that liberating letter Paul, a sent one, could later write to the diverse group of Christ-followers in Rome: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”

  4. A verse that’s been pressing on my mind and heart for a while now has been James 1:19-20. It’s a verse that I sense MANY in our churches and in our country (especially in this present election season) need to heed it’s wisdom.

    You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God. (NASB)

    I try to infuse it into my congregants as often as possible. Usually that same conversation leads into sharing an accompanying passage from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. “Love is patient, love is kind…”

    I recently used Dan Wilt’s previous exercise of inserting Jesus’ name upon rereading the text, in place of the word love, and then a third reading, instructing the group to insert their own name in the place of love. It was POWERFUL! 🙂

    I praise God and give Him the glory for how His word continues to speak into and transform us when our posture is ready to receive it and be humbled and growing into the new creation that He wants each of us to be.

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