What characteristics do we want in our leaders? Charisma? Confidence? Eloquence? Maybe. Integrity, honesty, compassion, wisdom, impartiality, selflessness, transparency? Definitely. We might complain when a leader’s bland or boring but when a leader lies to us it’s disastrous. When there’s a disconnect between what a leader says and how they live we lose confidence in them. When leaders don’t live up to the standards we set for them (standards we often blatantly don’t live up to ourselves) we show little mercy. We expect their resignation.
A reliable leader
We’re experiencing something of a crisis of leadership in the UK at the moment. We’ve voted against leadership from Strasbourg but now we’re wondering who will lead us? Over the last few months most of us have heard or been part of conversations complaining about our leaders – their political manoeuvring for personal advancement, their ‘misinformation’, the inter- and intra-party slanging matches; many people feel deceived and let down. We long for a leader we can trust, a leader who will serve the country, who will protect the vulnerable, who will do the right thing even if it doesn’t win votes or advance their career.
2,000 years ago there was a leader just like that. Even his enemies had to admit he was a ‘man of integrity… you aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are’ (Matt. 22:16). He sacrificed his own reputation for the sake of the marginalised and vulnerable in society. He spoke the truth even when it made him unpopular. He always practiced what he preached. He set high standards and lived up to them and he was merciful to those who didn’t live up to those standards. He gave up his own rights for the sake of people who hated him. He was wise with those who thought they could out-fox him. He kept quiet when he was falsely accused. He served the one who would later betray him. He reached out to those who opposed him. He is the sort of leader we dream of having.
A rejected leader
And yet, in spite of all this, he was never elected president or prime minister, in fact instead of being lifted onto a throne, he was lifted onto a cross. What does that say about us? – that when the leader we long for comes along, we reject him and crucify him. It tells us we need more than a leader, we need a saviour – and that’s why he died. He was a king, the true king, but he chose to give his life to rescue us from ourselves.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.
And he did take it up again, so that he can be the saviour and leader we all need today. A leader with power to make a difference in our lives, with love to want the best for us, and wisdom to know what is best. This leader won’t abandon ship, he promises to never leave or forsake us – even through death – and he never breaks his promises. We should pray for our political leaders, they have a tough task and in as much as they try to lead with integrity they need our support. But unfortunately none of them will ever be completely the leaders we’d love them to be, because in the end they’re just like the rest of us. Only Jesus can bear the weight of our hopes for this life and the next. We can trust him to walk with us and fight for us each day, and then take us through death into a world where he reigns with justice and righteousness. Have you trusted him to be your saviour, and are you living with him as your lord?