Good leaders use their power to achieve justice for others, particularly those who are vulnerable. They do not use their power to serve themselves.
On the 1st June 2020, President Donald Trump stood outside St John’s Espiscopal Church, holding up a Bible. Many Christians were horrified. The BBC quotes Mariann Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, as saying, ‘The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.’
It appears that Trump was attempting to make a bold statement of religiousness, something that handily distracts from, well, the apocalyptic levels of bad news the world is currently dealing with. He isn’t the first to use religion for political purposes, and we can be sure he won’t be the last.
Does holding a Bible and looking very stern make Trump a good Christian leader? No, though I, among many others, was pleasantly surprised to find he didn’t burst into flames when he picked it up. It is always nice for politicians to exceed our expectations.
If you want a hint about how the Bible views leadership, you should check out Jeremiah 22:13-19. It takes us all the way back to the Kingdom of Judah, several thousand years ago. Jeremiah has been sent by God to have a right go at King Jehoiakim. As Jerry criticises Kim, we find out about what God values in a leader. Here is a couple of verses from that section:
But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!
Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink.
But he was just and right in all his dealings.
That is why God blessed him.
16 He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
and everything went well for him.
Isn’t that what it means to know me?”
says the Lord.
17 “But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty!
You murder the innocent,
oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly.”
In these verses, Kim is compared to the good King Josiah. Kim doesn’t fare well. He has been using forced labour to build himself a big, beautiful, house. He has oppressed his people for his own gain, and is said to ‘reign ruthlessly.’ Then you have Jo, a man who was ‘just and right,’ who gave ‘justice and help to the poor and needy.’
One used his power selflessly, taking care to ensure that those who were vulnerable were looked after. The other was a right git, using his power for his own ends, abusing his own people so that he could live in luxury. One served others, the other served himself.
How can you evaluate if someone is a good leader or not? Ask yourself, how do they use their power over others? Do they take time to listen to the voices of those who are suffering, and use their power to help others who don’t have any? Do they dedicate their time to serving those who are hurting, those who are struggling, those who, because of economic or social oppression, need some help?
Or, do they use their power to look out for themselves?
Christians believe the ultimate model for leadership is Jesus Christ. This is how the Bible describes him:
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT)
Though Jesus is God, he used his power and authority to care for you and me, people who otherwise couldn’t help themselves. Any leader should seek to mirror this in their own work. If you have power in your own home, in your church, in your job, or as a leader of your nation, then this is the model of leadership that you should follow.
When Donald Trump held that Bible up, he did not demonstrate whether he was a good leader. In order to do that, we must look at how he treats the poor, the needy, and the innocent.
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For an informal bibliography, see page 2.