I am at this time working on putting together my first book. It will be a selection of a number of my texts released and published over the years. This one is a candidate for the book. I would like to share it with you today:
Mainstream and social media today feed our imagination with stories of leaders, celebrities known for dubious morality, scandalous relationships, questionable prosperity, and irresponsible leadership. Some of the government leaders, former presidents, celebrity pastors and popular evangelists are a case in point.
It is important at this time to have our minds focused on the memories of a different brand of leaders, such as William Wilberforce (1759-1833), an English parliamentarian who dedicated his entire life to abolishing of the slave trade on the British Isles. Dietrich Bonheoffer (1906-1945), German theologian and clergyman, paid with his own life for daring to stand up to the National Socialism of Adolf Hitler at a time when most German Christians were applauding the Fuehrer. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), US Civil Rights leader led a movement that brought closer the American society across its racial divides. Mother Teresa (1910-1997), an ethnic Albanian nun with a global impact, brought hope and love to millions of the outcast in India and the world. Desmond Tutu (1931), a South African bishop, stood up against apartheid long before it was abolished in 1994.
They were the leaders of substance and character who brought hope, inspiration and healing to broken relationships, a taste of undiluted justice and a vision of a better world. They were the “salt and the light of the world” — Matt. 5:13-16. What set them apart from the celebrities of the moment was that they resolved to stand up, not for their own convenience, prestige or gain, but for human dignity and the freedoms of others.
They were the true heroes, armed with the attitude of service and sacrifice. By the power of example and action they gained the right to be the leaders worth following. Their vision and passion came from a higher source of authority than themselves. In the words of C.S. Lewis, they were the people who “did most for the present world precisely because they thought most of the next.” Their leadership was a prophetic, and often a costly one. They were the ambassadors for a better world.
Sadly, the concept of what constitutes good leadership today has largely lost its prophetic focus and transformative power. For too many being a leader today means an entitlement to undeserving empowerment: a position they gain by walking shamelessly and ruthlessly over their political and ideological opponents. Destroying anyone at whatever cost who stands in their way of claiming the throne of power has become a standard way of advancing to the top. Lying, demonizing, defamation, character assassination, fact manipulation, appealing to populism, gossip designed to ruin another’s reputation, and shameless blame-shifting seem to be a blueprint followed by many rushing to the attractive summits of power.
Unfortunately, much of power grabbing in the US and elsewhere is done by the leaders who love to brag about their faith and their support for Christian values. They love to make sure we know how concern they are for the spiritual and moral wellbeing of their nation. They are selectively pro-life. They love to be seen in churches, be photographed with the Bible in their hands, present themselves as the sole defenders of religious freedom.
And yet if the 21st century is not to sink further into moral hypocrisy, the world needs leaders who are more than religiously correct. It needs leaders whose minds, hearts and characters are thoroughly transformed in the way the characters of William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu were transformed.
One certainly does not come into possession of a good character and renewed mind through political maneuvering or correct public utterances. The Old Testament account of Jacob’s wrestling with God unveils an amazing insight into the importance of letting a divine influence sharpen the character of any aspiring leader (Genesis 32:22-33). Jacob, whose name meant “one who deceives,” reached the point in his life when he was not willing to let God go until God changed him. He had enough of being a laying and deceitful Jacob. The wrestling encounter with God became a defining moment in Jacob’s life because that night Jacob wrestled with himself too. This was Jacob’s statement that he wanted God to take away from him all deformities of his character — dishonesty, hypocrisy, deception, and the lying spirit.
For anyone who aspires to be a leader called to make a difference, or if one simply wants to be a person whose life counts, wrestling with God and oneself will become one’s unavoidable and ongoing character pruning experience. This kind of character maturing starts with small things, such as — Are you faithful to your spouse, children and family? Do you lie about other people for business or political gain? How do you treat the less fortunate than you? What do you do when no one sees you? In other words, do you find Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” to be a guiding principle in your life?
Let’s decide today to become leaders and people of integrity, decency and truth in all matters, whatever the cost. Do not be afraid to wrestle with yourself and God and you will become a leader your family, community, country and the world desperately need — a leader worth following.