Understandings of power and leadership vary with history and culture. We must be careful where we take our lessons and models. The prophet Jeremiah chastised rulers of Israel for being such bad and neglectful shepherds that their sheep were scattered in exile. He lambasted them for worshipping false gods and neglecting the needs of the people. This was irresponsible leadership. Jesus spoke in a clear voice for “power to the people,” especially the lowest on the tree of status and wealth. Through him we learn that God’s radical love is available to all, and that the power to lead, to make change, does not reside only with a few.
We have a deep need for responsible leaders; leaders who are righteous (“in right relationship”) with us. Irresponsible leaders dedicated only to their own agendas are dangerous, using it to the detriment of the people, the sheep, who may be powerless to counteract that. In Jeremiah’s time, everything resolved down to armed conflict – “we can win because our god is bigger and better than your god, and will lead us to victory.”
The message of Jesus was different. He knew that healing (empowering!) the sick and powerless subverts worldly power and brings in the reign of God. We are being asked to do the same thing. How many times do we hear – “the reign of God is among you,” is at hand? The power of God’s love works through you. The power to change the world works through you.
The righteous leadership to which we are called requires (a) we be unafraid to fail at our own agendas of success and looking good. It means asking “What does God want of us?” and (b) that we have the generosity and humility to mentor new leaders, to give power to others. Responsible leaders look for the next leaders and mentor them. We need to do that.
Deep peace and power to all the people