Hi everyone. Rob here.
What an incredibly difficult time this is to be a leader! From Presidents and Prime Ministers to pastors and parents, the ability to lead is being tested. Unpopular decisions have had to be made, moral dilemmas have had to be worked through and short-term harm has had to be chosen in the hope that there’s a greater good at the end of it. Some leaders have responded with empathy, clarity. boldness and strength. Others have been weak (sometimes disguised by bluster), indecisive (sometimes disguised by people pleasing, contradictory decisions and denial), vague and a disturbing lack of compassion. And that’s just the parents! Leadership is an obvious example of character on the inside impacting life on the outside. As Jesus approached the cross in Passion Week he ruthlessly exposed the lack of character in Jerusalem’s leaders. It cost him his life and it serves as a profound warning and invitation when it comes to handling power.
Jesus led by serving and by forsaking his power:
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
Leaders who are willing to lose power for the sake of others are leaders made in the image of Christ. In contrast, leaders who cling to power for their own sake and the sake of powerful interests are, you could say, “anti-Christs.” We see this in Luke 20:45-47.
Then, with the crowds listening, he turned to his disciples and said, “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”
Leaders can look good, sound good and, at times, act good, but if their motive is self-serving and self-glorifying then Jesus opposes them. Earlier in the chapter Jesus is challenged by the religious leaders to explain by what authority he had to act as he did. Jesus challenged them in return to explain the origins of John’s baptism – heavenly or human? Because of fear of the people they couldn’t say it was merely human. Out of fear of being exposed for unbelief they couldn’t say it was from heaven. They revealed themselves as having no true authority of their own when they said, “We don’t know.” So Jesus didn’t tell them where his authority came from either. False leaders can’t and won’t recognise divine authority, let alone humble themselves before it.
Some leaders are better than others. This current crisis has exposed that for those with eyes to see. It’s interesting that those who love power the most seem to have the thinnest skin. We see that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were also intolerant of criticism or critique. Jesus’ constant exposure of their self-serving motives cost him his life in the end. While politicians and other public figures are easy targets (especially these days it seems) it is much more challenging to apply these tests to ourselves. How do we feel when we’re criticised, especially when it seems unfair? Whose interests are we serving when we make decisions each day? Do we really want God’s will to be done in our lives or do we prefer ours? When Jesus applies these questions to me, I feel exposed too. What I do with that feeling of exposure is a true test of faith. If I really believe that God is love and God acts for my good, then I will let him teach me through the exposure. It’s fair to say that my record on this is mixed. How about you?
I lead the best when I’m centred and soaked in Christ. When I’m anchored in God’s love for me then I act much more selflessly. When I bring my fragile ego to the cross of Jesus and die to myself there, then I can lead by truly serving and truly loving. I pray for our leaders right now that they will leave their egos at the door, see the suffering around them and lead with compassion and care. May it be so.
Grace and peace.