Character of a Leader

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 NLT

This is the passage I try to pay most attention to and live accordingly.  Am I a success?  Well, some days I do really well.  Other days I put things before God because I want what I want, or I’m not focused, or hundreds of other reasons that are nothing but lame excuses.  Somedays I really do love my neighbor as myself, and other days it seems that the world is lined up to show me how cruel, heartless, stupid, greedy, and just plain annoying they can be.  On those days people get in the way of my ability to love my neighbor.  (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)  

Jesus sets us an example of how to love our neighbors as ourselves and be in charge at the same time through his model of servant leadership.  Jesus made a practice of associating with those who needed him most.  He didn’t stick with the religious leaders, the powerful, the rich, and the popular.  He went to dinner with tax collectors, befriended Mary Magdalene, and had love for the woman at the well.  He blessed and healed the blind, the lame, and the leper.  When a woman reached out to touch his garment, he had kind words for her.  He washed the feet of his disciples.  Peter’s argument that Jesus was the master and shouldn’t be lowering himself, was brushed aside. 

In the article “21 Laws: Jesus and the Law of Addition, A Visual Aid About Adding Value,” John Maxwell outlined the characteristics of a servant leader, the ideal leader as evidenced in Jesus Christ’s example.  Using John 13 as his guide, Maxwell tells us that some of the characteristics of ideal leaders include that they: are motivated by love that was “undeserved, unending, unconditional, and unselfish”; possess a security that allows them to serve others because they know who they are without insecurities, have nothing to prove and nothing to hide; have the ability to see a need and meet it without worrying about who should be doing it, who gets the credit, or who should be giving or taking; teach servanthood through example.

He goes on to talk about how servant leadership should look in our world and in our lives everyday.  These include putting others ahead of your agenda, developing the confidence and security to take risks, looking for a need and taking initiative, performing small acts anonymously, learning to walk slowly through a crowd, beginning your day reflecting on the love you have for others in your life, and developing a bias for action. (https://www.thenivbible.com/blog/jesus-teaching-on-servant-leadership/)

These are high ideals and goals.  Will any leader meet them all?  Of course not.  No one is as good as God — even though there seem to be people who might be surprised by that bit of information.  Mark recounts Jesus telling them what a leader should be like. “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45)

And this brings me to my point for today.  I am having a bit of a crisis in my relationship with the church today.  Churches are constantly talking about how they are places of safety and refuge, somewhere for hurting people to go, somewhere you’ll find the love of God.  And I believe that they think they are that.  They’d be surprised to see their own churches as an outsider does walking in the door.  It is a safe place and a welcoming place if you are known, if you look like the rest of the congregation, if you believe exactly like they do, and if you do not question.  If not, it can be a very lonely, cold, and even cruel place.  This is something I’ve tried to talk about for years.  A former pastor purchased cases of the book Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them by George Barna so that the entire church could become aware of how they are seen.  It talks about how the world views Christians and the church. 

And this is where my rant starts because I have been holding this in and not letting loose on the blog about any of this. Consider yourself warned.

Christians have been among the most judgmental people in my life.  I have heard them in church talking about neighbors who had a party with lots of alcohol, who raise their children differently, who are divorced.  They were outraged by a book called It Takes a Village referring to an old saying about raising children. They decried the book in my Sunday School class because it was written by someone political they didn’t like, but in the next breath they were talking about how we are all responsible for helping to raise the children in our midst. (They didn’t like when I said, “You mean it takes a village?”) I worked in the church library and went to select books with some others at one time.  They wouldn’t allow a book by Sandi Patty and another by Amy Grant because both Patty and Grant were divorced.  If there was no room for Sandi and Amy in the church was there room for me, a woman whose husband left her—was I welcome there?  At Bible study one morning a woman talked about her next door neighbors who had invited her to their wedding.  Instead of being appreciative of the invitation, she told the same-sex couple that she couldn’t attend because their marriage and life was sinful.  If she felt that attending this wedding would be against her beliefs, she could have merely replied that she wouldn’t attend.  She didn’t need to pass judgment.  Can she witness to them?  One day I asked the questions that are yet to come in this post (and I was very conscious of being calm and not threatening in my wording and voice) of women in my Bible study. There are some who haven’t talked to me since that day. Christians want everyone in their world standing at moral attention.  When you fall short, you don’t feel that you can admit it and still be cared-for, loved, and welcomed.  

That judgmental attitude and behavior seem to stop once we move beyond the mere mortals living next door, going to your church, or living in your community.  From there, it becomes much more subjective. When it comes to the current resident of the Oval Office, they have no criticism, none of the judgments, and will deny something that he has said on camera!  They have blind loyalty and actively promote him and his statements.  I cannot understand how anyone who claims to be a Christian can vote for this man let alone hold him up as an ideal of Christian manhood.

I understand that while campaigning he claimed to be pro-life and that there are people who vote on only one issue, but eventually you have to look at the whole package.  I understand that people didn’t like Hillary Clinton, but she is not longer an issue.  If people vote by party, he wasn’t always a Republican. His children weren’t able to vote for him in the primary because they were not registered in the Republican party. He once said that if he ran for President he would do so as a Republican, because “they’ll believe anything.”  (Maybe he was drawing the distinction that they were on the same page as opposed to the Democrats. Will Rogers once said he didn’t belong to any organized party, he was a Democrat.) Trump knew he could say what they wanted to hear.  But what about the things he has said and done that are so obviously not in line with Christian values?

Sandy and Amy can’t have a book in the church library, but Donald Trump can be looked to as a leader who is Christian when he has been married three times.  He cheated on his first wife with the second who was pregnant by the time he was divorced.  He started dating wife number three while still married to his second wife.  And he cheated on the current wife with at least one porn star.  He bragged about going backstage at the Miss Universe Pageant to see the young contestants (40 years his junior) undressed.  He talked boldly and proudly of grabbing women by “the pussy” and laughed about it.

He has been caught on tape lying more times that can be counted.  And these lies cannot be attributed to a liberal media spin.  If you listen to his words, he will say something and days later deny ever having said it, will say the opposite, or (my favorite) say “I was just kidding.”  This week he shared a post on his Twitter account that ended with #fireFauci.  When asked about it, he denied it and told the reporter, “That’s a nasty question.”

He has made fun of a handicapped reporter, the appearance of every woman in politics, made up a story about a political rival’s father being involved in the Kennedy assassination, and implied that any woman who pushed him with a question was having her period. He constantly makes up hideous, childish nicknames for anyone who would dare oppose or disagree with him.  He has uttered so many racial insults that he has made it okay for hate-filled white nationalists to rise up loud and create an atmosphere of hate around our country citing him as their inspiration.

He has used bankruptcy laws to get out of paying subcontractors forcing small businesses to close their doors because he wouldn’t pay them.  He had a charity shut down for fraud because it was only used for his personal use. Then there was Trump University which was a sham.  He has knowingly shared things online that were false, that had been proven untrue before he shared them.  His response when asked about any of this or any other things he has done is sometimes a smirk and a shrug.  More often, his response is to attack the questioner or deny it.

His use of bankruptcy to get out of responsibility for paying these people is just one indicator of his idea that he gets all the credit and none of the blame.  According to his own descriptions, everything he has done is the biggest, the best, the most tremendous, and excellent.  But when there has been something that went wrong or when he’s been faced with the decisions he made, he deflects.  He starts saying that an appointee is the best man ever for the job, that he knows the man well and that we’re lucky to have him.  As soon as there is a problem caused by the appointee or by Trump himself, he says he really didn’t know the man well, had very little interaction with him, and had no idea what was going on.  And he quickly goes to calling the man names.  Just look at all of the people who have been fired or left their positions in the west wing.  He accepts no responsibility.  He will betray trust, turn his back on friends and colleagues, ask reputable people to do things that are unconstitutional, use disreputable people to do his bidding, and end the career of anyone disagreeing with him.  He claims that no President has ever been treated as badly as he has though I think Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy might take exception to that.

Recently he has come under fire for his lack of action and rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  He keeps touting the one thing he did by stopping travel from China, but when asked what he was doing from that date until the middle of March, his answer was angry and rude.  He told the reporter, “We both know you’re a fake.”  He didn’t answer because it wouldn’t have made him look good, he would have to admit to a fault.  He says he was calling it a pandemic before anyone else used the term, but there is footage of him calling it a hoax, another made-up story from the Democrats, and claiming that it would all be gone very quickly.  Look at the timeline of his words and actions as well as the things he promised that were lies, misleading statements, or never went beyond the words, and it becomes obvious that he is responsible for a slow response that cost lives.  Even if he didn’t listen to warnings other in the world, he was warned by people in his own administration. There is a paper trail of memos and emails sent to him that were recently brought to light that he claims he never read.  And he continued with his inaction.  He was more concerned with re-election than saving lives.  Now that more people are seeing that, he has turned to blaming the World Health Organization for the very things he is accused of.  

I keep hearing Christians maintain this man is a good Christian.  However, I watched him giving an interview where he was asked point blank if he had ever prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Christ for forgiveness.  His answer was that he had not.  He said he had nothing to confess but probably would if he needed to.  And now we have people like Franklin Graham, someone called a Christian leader, claiming that Trump hasn’t sinned the whole time in office.  Really?  Hasn’t sinned in three years?  Would Graham say that about himself?  I have lost so much respect for other Christians who can say something like that or who will not see any error in these amoral behaviors.  I have friends who cannot answer for their following this “Christian leader” so they immediately do what Trump does. They attack the Clintons and the Obamas.  Those people aren’t in the White House.  In fact, they have no official office at this point.  They are history.  They have their own actions to answer for, but we need to look at today.  Don’t tell me what someone else did, tell me how this behavior by the current President of the United States is something to emulate, to hold up to our children as an ideal?

I don’t care for either the Republican or the Democratic party.  Neither of them have cornered the market on policies, values, and ideals that would line up as Christian.  Both of them have more so-called leaders who are not public servants at all but are only interested in power and money.  I do have a strong problem with Donald Trump as a human and as a leader.  I know I’m being judgmental and it’s God’s job to do that not mine. However, voting requires us to be discerning and I feel that he has shown his heart, his lack of love for his neighbor, and his self-serving life.  I see him as a power-hungry, greedy, immoral or amoral narcissist.  And I just cannot see how anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ can hold this man up as an ideal or even as an example of what a man is meant to be.  It isn’t justifiable with his life-style, his own words, and his actions that continue to be as they have been since he had his own reality show.  It makes me cringe when I am asked how Christians can be the way they are with him by people who are lumping me into that herd.

People can say that they think he was good for the economy. They may like his nationalistic stance. I can’t get to his politics because I’m too offended by his character. Timothy lays out the qualities of a church leader, and they are certainly the characteristics I would like to see in a business leader, a school leader, the town mayor, our governors, Congress, and absolutely in the President of the United States.  The qualities he outlines include being above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money (3:1-7 ESV).  The first chapter of Titus outlines an almost identical set of attributes telling us that a leader must be above reproach, not arrogant or quick-tempered, not greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”  Our Twitter president falls very short on these.  

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