Radical Leadership

“But Jesus called them to himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all'” (Mark 10:42-44).
The country of Bangladesh is in a political crisis. Scheduled elections have been canceled, a state of emergency declared, and the future of democracy in that nation is threatened. Many things have contributed to create this situation, including the rise of fundamentalist, militant, Islamist parties who seek the destruction of democratic rule in favor of a religious state. However, one prominent Bangla humanitarian, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, blames the greed and selfishness of powerful politicians as the primary factor. He states, “All the politicians are interested only in money for themselves,” and points to bribery, corruption, and violence for profit as evidence. Certainly there is an abundance of these things in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is an extreme example of human greed and its place in politics and government. But it was a westerner who long ago pointed out, “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Are there any nations where greed and self-interest have not been evident in government? Is this not simply the way of the world? History would argue that it is.
This is not to justify or to excuse corruption and misuse of power, nor is it to bow down to the inevitability of “human nature.” Jesus does not endorse the system of the Gentiles, nor does he submit to it as unavoidable. Rather he points to an alternative system. In his kingdom, power is to be used differently. His people are motivated not by selfishness, but by love.
“Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).
We often read these verses and apply them to Christian fellowship and leadership in the Church. How wonderful it would be if every congregation was filled with people who truly followed this philosophy and strove for this ideal. Blessed indeed would the congregation be whose leadership lived by these principles. Though this application is undoubtedly true and appropriate, it does not go far enough. There is no reason to restrict our goal to a congregation or even to the church in its entirety. What would be the effect on nations and the world if civil leaders were chosen who believed and followed the principle of unselfish love? Can we imagine the result of true unselfishness, the rejection of greed and selfish ambition on the part of those who govern?
Unfortunately there is no human reason to assume that world leaders will to any appreciable extent forgo their own lustful desires. Thousands of years of history suggest that “wars and fighting,” along with their cause, the “desires for pleasure that war in (our) members,” will continue (James 4:1). Yet there remain two sources of hope for better things.
The first of these is the ongoing effort to bring the Prince of Peace into world-wide power through the preaching of the Gospel. The nature of men can only be changed by the influence of the Spirit of God. If true Christianity is practiced, taught, and encouraged, more disciples will be made and changes in human conditions will follow. Witness the rise and spread of western civilization and the gradual abolition of many vices known in former times and societies (slavery, polygamy, etc.). Governments and cultures have been transformed in the past by the Gospel. They certainly can be again.
A more immediate source of hope, however, is the personal “transfer” of one’s allegiance from citizenship in a secular nation to that within the Kingdom of God. I am not speaking only of conversion to Christianity from unbelief, but rather of acceptance that one’s greatest blessings derive from Christ and his Church, not from a secular state. This is not to deny that home and country is important. Nor is it to suggest that the Christian cannot be a patriot, or be excited about his nation. But when we are disappointed and discouraged because of the wrongs existing in human governments, and when we note the imperfect conditions of any and all societies of men, let us be reminded that we have citizenship in another kingdom whose head is perfect, just, and loving. We will never be disappointed in the leadership of Jesus. We will never see him harm his people for personal gain. Whatever we lack in this world, we have gained in Christ. Truly we are blessed.

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