Leaders — The Few Good, the Many Bad and the Really Ugly

Every now and then, I just stare at the TV in shocked disbelief at the ignorance, the incompetence, and the insanity of some who are called “leaders.” But none of their inadequacies masks their fundamental desire to control us common folks. We see this daily in congressional committee meetings, news releases, interviews, and proposals coming out of those smoke-filled back rooms. As a recent example, Pete Buttigieg (Transportation Secretary) has brought together 24 “experts” to form his “Transportation Equity” advisory committee. (Apparently there is inequity in the way we transport ourselves around from place to place). However, when one looks carefully at this committee, the fog lifts on this charade and it is just a new way to get rid of gas-powered cars and tighten government control over those being led (One of these “experts” wrote a paper on how cars perpetuate “systemic racism”! Is that ignorance or insanity or both?).  And this is just one of hundreds of examples of leaders who do not lead for the benefit of the led, but scheme to control the people they are allegedly leading. We are, of course, always told that this is what is best for the “American people.” 

While on the local, state, and federal levels there are some good leaders who seem to have the welfare of the people in mind, the majority appear to use their positions of leadership to advance themselves. Self-interest has always been present when sinful man gains the authority of leadership. Recently I viewed a couple of good documentaries on Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar and saw the lust for authoritarian rule which clearly gripped them. Nothing new in leaders. Pick any place in history and you will see the same thing. This desire to increasingly control people and dictate how they live (for the benefit of the leader) has been with us (think Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini) and will be with us until the present world system is removed.

Jesus’ Teaching on Leadership Authority. Leaders who lead for their own benefit were present in Jesus’ day as well and formed the backdrop for His instruction to the Apostles. In Mark 10:42-45, after Jesus was requested (by their mom) to allow James and John to sit in the two most significant places of authority in His kingdom, Jesus gave His inspired lecture on leadership authority. He first noted that characteristically gentile leaders “lord it over” their subjects. That’s just what they do. They use their positions of authority to gain power, wealth, and prestige. This, however, is not what is to characterize the followers of Jesus who enter positions of leadership authority. Jesus pointed out that there are two kinds of authority: (1) leadership authority that comes with a position, and (2) leadership authority that comes from being a “servant-leader.” 

Most everyone understands the first one. For example, in the home, siblings are rarely successful when they try and discipline one another because they do not have the authority to do so. But parents have the recognized authority and can discipline the child; thus, leadership authority from position. The second area of leadership authority is less understood, much less practiced. Leadership authority has been ordained by God (in nations, home, and church) to met the needs of others. And good leaders will do that. When Jesus took the role of a servant and washed the disciples’ feet, He pointed out after doing the job of a servant, that He remained their Lord and Teacher (John 13:13). Serving others does not destroy ones’ leadership position. Meeting the genuine needs of others also has an interesting psychological/spiritual result. The ones being served by the leader gladly, voluntarily submit themselves to that kind of leader. There comes into the relationship an authority over the led because of the leader’s serving them. Jesus stated that this is what was to characterize His Apostles who would be given significant authority in His church. And we do see it in the lives and leadership of the Apostles.  

Leadership Authority in the Church. The New Testament is quite clear that there is just one “head” of the Church and that is the Lord Jesus Himself. The New Testament also teaches that the Elders in the church do have leadership authority which is given to carry out the necessary ministries of the church. But being sinful people, they can abuse that authority. And unfortunately, the misuse of this God-given authority has frequently been found in the church. This takes place generally because the elder has focused on leadership authority that comes from position and neglected leadership authority that comes from serving. When a man views the office of elder as a position and less as a shepherding ministry, immediately there is trouble brewing. The Apostle Peter bluntly warned elders not to “lord it over” the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Even churches are not exempt from bad, authoritarian leadership. 

Leadership Authority in the Home. In the wisdom of God, there is an authority structure placed in the key setting of the home. The husband/father is the “head” of the family. Both husband and wife have authority over the children. Yet, even in that setting warning is given about the abuse of authority. Fathers are specifically told not to “provoke” their children to anger, which generally comes about when authority is wrongly used (Eph. 6:3). And, of course, a husband, as “head,” might not give loving leadership to his wife but rather become self-absorbed and live with an eye to his own desires and interests. It is worth noting that a wife normally has a desire to take her role of submitting to her husband’s authority when he is a servant-leader.  Anytime one sinful person has an authority (even God-given) over another, there is the real possibility of authoritarianism. And sadly, there are many homes where leadership abuse characterizes the home relationships.  

The Coming Dictators. The last days of planet earth will see two dictators emerge and dominate the world. First, there is the Antichrist who is given incredible ruling authority by Satan, the god of this world (Rev, 13:4, 7). He will exercise this evil authority to a level that no other bad leader has ever done. The consequences of such authoritarianism are predictable. Some of it is detailed for us by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. During this massive abuse of power, somewhere around 80% of the world’s population will perish, and the anguish of mankind will be unprecedented. This authoritarian rule is as ugly as leadership can get. 

The second dictator is Jesus, and it does not get any better than His rule. He is King of kings ruling for 1,000 years (And He is not voted in as Messiah every 4 years). Because He cares about the welfare of His people, His reign will be one of peace, joy, fellowship, and prosperity for all. Because He has leadership authority by position, He will deal with any bad behavior that surfaces. Parents have authority by position so that they can deal with children who behave badly; elders have authority by position so that they can discipline those in the church who behave badly; government does not bear the sword in vain (Rom. 13:4) so it can deal with citizens who behave badly. And in the kingdom of Jesus, He will use the “rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9) to deal with all behavior that is bad. Jesus is a benevolent dictatorship who will not abuse authority. All in His kingdom will be able to live in plenty and harmony. It is leadership authority at its best.

It is wonderful to know that the present leaders in this world will be replaced by the greatest Servant-leader to ever rule. I for one am very glad that I will be there to experience and witness such a golden age, led by Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.