During this presidential transition the media chatter often includes references to a “leadership vacuum.” My assumption is that this is the perception that the current president is pulling away from his responsibilities while the president-elect is waiting off stage. Admittedly, I sometimes wonder if there has been a leadership vacuum for the last several months when it comes to managing the Covid 19 pandemic.
My thoughts turn immediately to scripture. The prophets, on behalf of the God of Israel, spoke to their leaders like this, “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? … so the sheep were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. … Thus says the Most High God: I swear I am coming against these shepherds.” (Ezekiel 34)
Leadership is an awesome responsibility. Leaders are held to account for what happens to the people in their charge. God cares deeply about how we treat one another and has compassion for those who suffer under greedy, cruel, or foolish leaders. When Christ Jesus came to earth he saw the crowds that came to him and had pity on them. The people were searching for someone to care, searching for justice, searching for healing, searching for life, searching for liberty, searching for God. He recognized that the people of his time and place were being abused and exploited by those who had conquered them, and neglected and left unprotected by the leaders of their faith and nation. He was moved to compassion “because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9: 36)
Leadership is not given for the sake of ones self but for the sake of others. I believe some people think of leadership as having power over others and use that power to increase their own wealth, status, and privilege. However, if you are someone who believes in the God of Abraham and of Christ Jesus, you will soon realize that God expects something quite different from leaders. God expects leaders to see their positions as using their power for others, ensuring that the needs of those in their charge are met and protecting the whole flock from danger. Good leaders make sure that no one exploits, abuses, or takes advantage of anyone in their care.
We elect our leaders in the hope that they will be good shepherds — caring and compassionate, wise and judicious, even handed and considerate. Unfortunately, individuals are tempted by power, status, and privilege and seek leadership roles for all the wrong reasons. Throughout history people have suffered under those who use their power to grasp control over others and use their positions for their own self aggrandizement.
Remember, Christ Jesus was tempted by power, too. He was tempted to seek wealth, status, and privilege just like anyone else. He spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness struggling to understand what it meant that God had granted him power. Even later in his ministry he would be tempted. When people wanted to make him a king he had to run away and hide.
Every human being is granted a measure of power. This power can be twisted one way or another. It can be used as power over others, or power with and for others. When anyone is granted a position of authority in society it is essential for us to understand how we are to use our power in that position. There are many positions that put others in our care — whether we are parents, older siblings, baby sitters, teachers, health care workers, police officers, employers, commissioners, judges, mayors, government representatives, senators, CEOs, bishops, popes, or presidents, we are given positions of care and our power is to be used for others, not for self.
God will hold each of us accountable for the way we use the power we are granted in whatever position we find ourselves. God cares deeply about how we treat one another. Let me close with this bit of scripture from Matthew 25: 45 “Who is the faithful, farsighted servant whom the owner of the house puts in charge of the household to provide for their needs at the appropriate times? Happy are those workers whom the owners find at their work upon their return. The truth is, they will be given more responsibility. But if the worker is worthless and thinks, ‘The owners will be away a long time,’ and browbeats the other workers, eating and drinking to excess, the owners will return on a day when least expected, at the unknown hour. They will scourge the lout, assigning the hypocrite to that place where there is wailing and the grinding of teeth.”
My beloved ones, be faithful leaders in whatever position you find yourselves and pray that God grant us good leaders over us.