Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 63; 149, 1 Kings 12:1-20, James 5:7-20, Mark 15:33-39
Every leader, from a shift manager at a burger joint to the president of the United States, eventually faces the same problem: how to lead when your people are dissatisfied. Almost as soon as Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king, the people of Israel confronted him to lift the heavy burdens placed on them by his father. Rehoboam consulted the older men of his court, and they advised him: “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them […] then they will be your servants forever.” Rehoboam didn’t like that answer so he asked his younger friends who told him to say: “My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” Rehoboam chose to double-down with the scorpions, and the House of David went out of the king business when his people killed his enforcers and drove him out of Israel.
Rehoboam clung to the mistaken belief that a show of power is the same as a show of strength. His fear of appearing weak overrode the wisdom of his senior advisors. Like an inexperienced horseman who tries to lead by force, a fearful leader grips the reins of power too tightly and the people buck. Many businesses, rather than operating on the classic model of imposing decisions and punishing those who disagree, have adopted a habit of asking their employees how to improve productivity, working conditions, and profits before making decisions. Employees (or citizens or congregations) are more invested in an organization and leader they believe values them.
The servant leader doesn’t capitulate to every whim of every person she or he leads. Jesus did not compromise his principles to make the disciples happy – otherwise he would have never ended up on the cross. Servant leaders set aside ego and fear to make the best decisions for their people, even when that means setting aside power and embracing vulnerability. As a result the leader may be loved or despised – usually both – but it does not affect the leadership. True leadership has authority because it displays the strength of sacrificial love.
Comfort: When you are called to lead, you aren’t called to control.
Challenge: Pay attention to people’s leadership styles. What does it tell you about them?
Prayer: Merciful God, I am in your service always. Amen.
Discussion: Whose leadership have you respected, and why?
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