Follow the leader?


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, 1 Samuel 5:1-12, Acts 5:12-26, Luke 21:29-36

Leaders, no matter how powerful or influential, are only human. Unfortunately, the more power they wield, the more their inevitable flaws are magnified. As Peter and the other apostles preached the good news of the resurrected Christ, many people flocked to them; “they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by.” The Sadducees – whose flaw was jealousy – had the apostles arrested and imprisoned with seemingly no thought to the people who were being cured.

After the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, their leaders put it in the temple of Dagon. When over the course of two nights the statue of Dagon was first toppled then dismembered, did they rid themselves of it? No, they moved it to Gath where the inhabitants were then afflicted with deadly tumors. Then they moved it to Ekron, which fared no better.

Whether our government leaders are monarchs, clergy, or elected representatives their willingness to do right by the people usually extends only as far as their grip on power. That’s not to say they are bad people, just that they are as susceptible to the corruptions of power as any who seek it. Very few who scrape their way to first also desire to be least.

The people didn’t want Peter and company arrested. Ekron certainly didn’t want the Ark and a plague of tumors. Gath did volunteer to take it, but had no idea what was in store. When we experience the magnified flaws of leaders – especially those of a different nation, faith, or political affiliation  – we should be careful not to generalize those flaws across the people they represent.  The typical Christian is no better or worse a person than the typical Jew or Muslim. No political party has a monopoly on virtue or vice. Communists love and want what’s best for their children the same as capitalists.

As followers of Christ, we are called to love people not as a reflection of their leaders, but of ours.

Comfort: You don’t have to make enemies just because someone tells you to.

Challenge: Spend time seeking shared values, and it will be easier to manage differences.

Prayer: Lord, give me eyes to see all people as your beloved children. Amen.

Discussion: Are there any groups of people you used to stereotype, but no longer do?

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