In Exodus 20:7, God said, "You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name." God only said do not misuse or do not take in vain His name. But the ancient Hebrews in the Old Testament take another level by prohibited the people to even utter the name of God. To me, this is an example of how the religious people distancing the people from God. In the Old Testament God is loving and graceful but at the same time, He is just and righteous. When the people only look at one side of God, He was portrayed as being strict. But actually, God is holy, not strict! Book after book shows that God is holy, so pure that He could not even look at evil, much less tolerate it. But the way the religious people and the entire of the religious system separated people into "worthy" and "unworthy" or "pure" and "impure.” It was right at first (God is holy) but over time it becomes distorted (God is strict, they assumed).
Then came Jesus, the Son of God. When He arrived on the historical scene called the New Testament period, most people by religious standard were considered to be unworthy or impure - some because of their deeds, some because of what they do for a living, some because of their race (for example, Gentiles). In other words, only a precious few were ‘pure' enough even to approach God. In the midst of all these, Jesus declared Himself to be one with the God of the Old Testament when He said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58, refer to the "I am what I am" in Exodus 3:14). Or if it was not clear enough, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). This Jesus, sinless One (see 1 Peter 2:22) or the Holy One – if you read the Gospel stories – are the One who mingled with prostitutes, thieves, and tax collectors. You can imagine how this upset the religious hierarchy. Not only was their made-up God's identity, but their identity (and power base) being threatened.
Jesus, the Son of God, God's image in the human form, treated everyone as equals, unlike the religious leaders of His time. Although He remains holy, He doesn't strict Himself with ‘unworthy' and ‘impure' people. He called fishermen and prostitutes His brothers and sisters. He not only accepted these ‘less-than-pure' individuals, He radiated so much love and mercy for them that people – especially the poor and sinners – swarmed to Him. Even though people might be uncomfortable to be with Him, He nonetheless attracted them to Himself. In His presence, people sense His holiness but strangely it doesn't expel them (only the sinners who think that they are righteous do!). Jesus is holy, not strict! Strictness will produce hierarchies and borders; holiness measures everyone as equal – no hierarchies, no borders. Equally sinful, equally forgiven! "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female," the Scripture says, "For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
In your leadership – Christ-like leadership – show respect to people and accept them for who they are. Be holy (see 1 Peter 1:16) in term of lifestyle, discipline, and behaviors. But not strict in term of showing respect and accepting others as equal. In the light of this acceptance, people wanted to be better, try harder and do the good and right thing freely. They would want to be under your leadership. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Jesus' respect empowered others. Jesus treated others equally, do you?
Is your leadership style based on holiness or strictness?
Equality or hierarchies?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.