FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
LET SHIMEI CURSE
January 30, 2012
Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 15:13-14,30;16:5-13
David fled Jerusalem to escape from his son Absalom. As he traveled with his entourage, Shimei came out cursing, and threw stones at David and his officers, all the while maligning him. Abishai, one of his officers, wanted to kill Shimei but David prevented him. We as servant leaders have much to learn here.
David was a king while Shimei was a nobody. David had the power of men and arms while Shimei was alone and only had stones he could pick up. In the same way, we as servant leaders have power and authority and the support of many in the community.
Now there may be times when a community member or a leader below us might malign, insult, accuse, lie about or speak ill of us. Let us assume it is, to our mind, without just cause. What do we do? Malign him in turn? Or tell our subordinates to ostracize him? Or expel him?
If a subordinate does wrong, we can of course correct him, or even take disciplinary action against him. But if what he does is more against us personally rather than a threat to community order, we have the option to forbear and just suffer in silence. We can turn the other cheek.
What good is there in such a posture?
First, unless the person is just crazy, there would be basis, from his point of view, to do what he is doing. We may not agree. We may find it unreasonable. But there is a reason. It is good for our humility to simply take what he dishes out, and even try to look deeper at what our shortcoming could be.
Second, we may not have done any wrong, but God in His inscrutable wisdom desires that we suffer oppression, for the sake of a higher righteousness. David said, “Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’” (2 Sm 16:10b). In a moment David is no longer supposing but is more definite, and says, “Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.” (2 Sm 16:11c). God does use suffering and pain to bring us to deeper faith. He found Job to be exemplary, but still allowed Satan to afflict him severely. At the end of his ordeal, Job was much more appreciative of who God truly was.
As servant leaders, we must not just look to justifying ourselves, or defending ourselves, or shielding ourselves from criticism. We must take such an occasion, especially if it is unjustified, to gladly suffer for the sake of righteousness. God loves us so much and has such an important task for us as servant leaders that He will form us any which way. And one great way of formation is through suffering, by which we are emptied, humbled and purified.
Now such suffering is redemptive! David says, “Perhaps the Lord will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curses he is uttering this day.” (2 Sm 16:12). One is afflicted and cursed now, to be blessed by God later. One humbled will be exalted. One bowed down will be lifted up. One emptied will be filled.
Now isn’t that a nonsensical posture for a leader to take? Yes, from the world’s point of view. The world tells us: you have the power, use it. You are the leader, don’t take crap (pardon me) from subordinates. But that is not God’s point of view. Look at the posture of Jesus. He was innocent but was maligned and borne false witness against. He could have called upon a legion of angels but allowed mortals to scourge and spit on him. He was the King but took the form of a slave.
But “because of this, God greatly exalted him” (Phil 2:9a). Jesus became a slave, in order that he might become Lord. He suffered, in order that he might be glorified.
Now we are servants who happen to be leaders. Let us earn the right to lead, by being willing to take the lowest place. Let us not be proud but rather let us be humble. Let us have the same attitude of Jesus and follow the example of Jesus.
So do not lop off the heads of the Shimeis around you. Just continue on the road, while the Shimeis curse and throw stones and dirt as you go (2 Sm 16:13).
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