FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
PRINCIPLES FOR SERVANT LEADERS
July 27, 2015
Today’s reading: Exodus 32:15-34
Today’s reading from the book of Exodus provides certain principles or realities useful for servant leaders to know.
First, servant leaders need to realize that “the people are prone to evil.” (v.22b). This is the unfortunate reality, that people are sinful flesh, and even as they already have a personal relationship with God, even as they are in Christian community, even as they are already leaders among God’s people, they can, and quite often do, still fall into serious sin. These are sins of pride, lust, rebellion, envy, betrayal, selfishness, gossip, self-aggrandizement, disobedience, falsehood, etc. So servant leaders, much more so than the ordinary Christian, are to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. We are to be pure in mind and heart, not condemning, not judging, not maligning others. But we are also to be realistic and not naive. We can expect to encounter sinful people among those we serve and among those who serve with us. We must be vigilant and discerning.
Second, in a Christian community or parish, there will always be those who will oppose the leadership or the direction of the leadership. Some of them, because they fail to look to the common overall good, would even desire that the present leadership fail. “Aaron had lost control–to the secret delight of their foes.” (v.25b).
Third, it is right for servant leaders to have righteous anger, whenever serious sin or evil is among God’s people. “Then Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets down and broke them on the base of the mountain.” (v.19b). In the Old Testament, we see God’s anger flaring up time and again at the sins of people. Jesus himself angrily cleansed the temple. We must not take serious sin in the body lightly. We must not be complacent, or worse, tolerant.
Fourth, we serve only God, even as we serve God’s people. As such, the righteousness of God and the interests of God are first and foremost, more important than our personal friendships or blood relationships. If our friends or relatives are veering away from the straight path, we are to correct them, and in extreme cases, where serious and unrepented wrongdoing is involved, to purge them from our midst. “Go back and forth through the camp, from gate to gate, and kill your brothers, your friends, your neighbors!” (v.27b).
Fifth, while we are not to be controlling or authoritarian, servant leaders do have authority. We exercise authority for the sake of peace, unity and good order in the body. Otherwise, sinful people will be prone to disorder. “Moses saw that the people were running wild because Aaron had lost control” (v.25a). Servant leaders are to be authoritative but not authoritarian. They are to establish control without being controlling.
Sixth, we as servant leaders must be willing to take responsibility for the wrong that happens in the body under our watch. While we might not have personally done anything wrong, this is the principle of command responsibility. We should not just be finger-pointing and fault-finding and self-excusing, but we should examine our own selves. We are not to wash our hands, but know that we are all in this for better or for worse. If we find instances where we could have done something better or have been more watchful, then we admit to such before God. “On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a grave sin. Now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I may be able to make atonement for your sin.’” (v.30).
Seventh, while we take responsibility, if we have not done wrong, then we do not stand condemned before God. “The Lord answered Moses: Only the one who has sinned against me will I blot out of my book.” (v.33). The sins of those under our authority are not ours. The sins of those under us do not render us ineligible or incapable of continuing leadership. This also answers the concerns of those who, for example, have children who are unruly or not in the Lord; having such, unless it is because of the neglect of these leader-parents, does not preclude them from continuing leadership.
Eighth, no matter how serious the disorder in community has been, God still trusts in His anointed leaders who are striving to walk the straight path. God continues to guide them in the way they are to go, and provides the spiritual support they need. “Now, go and lead the people where I have told you. See, my angel will go before you.” (v.34a).
Servant leaders serve God, and in so doing, serve God’s people. Like the Good Shepherd, they gather, nurture and protect the flock. “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” (v.26b). They work to bring people closer to God, focused on Christ, and persevering in the mission. Difficult as their work is, being able to serve God is reward enough.
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