Colossians 3: 23-25 (NRSVA)
23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, 24 since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.
God’s ideas of leadership are not like ours. He is known for lifting up the humble and bringing down the mighty. Sadly, we are more inclined to trample the humble and lionise the mighty — although as soon as the mighty look like they are slipping, we are quite happy to trample them too. However, unless you are an anarchist, some kind of leadership is necessary in any institution or society.
In 2014 United Methodist pastor Martin Thielen wrote an article called “The Answer to bad religion is not no religion but good religion”. In it he argues that the only way to tackle ‘bad’ religion (such as teachings which exploit power, abuse or oppress individuals, judge entire groups of people and so forth) is with good religion. Good religion provides meaning, purpose and hope for millions of believers. It motivates people to care for others, and promotes responsible ethics and high ideals. In the case of Christianity, Thielen argues, good religion offers grace, not judgement; love not hatred, compassion, not legalism; humility, not arrogance.
In a similar way, the answer to bad leadership, is good leadership. For me, the essence of good leadership is in today’s passage, even though leaders are never mentioned.
Paul’s advice is as follows: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”. What Paul is encouraging, what Paul always encourages, is servant heartedness — regardless of social position.
Good leaders are first and foremost good servants. Good Christian leaders may be flawed, like David, but they know they are there to serve God’s purpose, not their own, and part of that purpose is to bring justice and wise government to a world in need.
If we want good leaders in these changing times we need to look for servant hearts
Lord, send us leaders with a natural talent for servanthood.
The swift of foot who are unafraid to tackle injustice
The green shoots who speak for our planet
The elders whose songs still inspire and challenge us
The small seedlings who contain immense courage and who refuse to be trampled.
Send them to us that we might bow down,
not to them, but to you,
We rise and serve together in your name.