FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
THE RIGHTEOUS LEADER
July 20, 2014
Today’s reading: Wisdom 12:13-19
God is the ultimate servant leader. Jesus was the Master but he made himself the suffering servant. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for his flock. Today’s reading gives us some traits of God that are helpful to our role as servant leaders. We look to Jesus, and know that “neither is there any god besides you who have the care of all” (v.13a).
A basic trait of a servant leader is righteousness. God is the righteous leader. “But as you are righteous, you govern all things righteously” (v.15a). The servant leader, called to holiness, should do all things righteously, reflecting the very righteousness of God. How do we manifest righteousness in our service?
Once again, we face the oxymoron that is “servant leadership.” We are leaders but we are servants. We have power and position but these are exercised for service. We are secure in our authority and wield it for the good of the body. “For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke insolence.” (v.17). Those who dissent, who defy authority, who cause disunity, are to be rebuked and corrected. At the same time, we are not autocratic, but in fact can tend to leniency, to giving much allowance, to understanding the shortcomings of our brethren. “And with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.” (v.18b).
Thus such power is never abused. It is in fact such power in leadership where we manifest our holiness. “For your might is the source of righteousness” (v.16a). How?
We do not condemn without just cause. We make sure we “have not unjustly condemned” (v.13b). We listen to people who disagree or even gripe, without immediately judging them dissident or divisive. We make it known that we are open-minded and can be talked to.
We do not wield power just to lord it over our brethren. “You regard it as unworthy of your power to punish one who has incurred no blame.” (v.15b). We consider no one in community as our enemy. There is only one enemy, and that is the evil one.
We in fact bend backwards, trying to gently and lovingly bring back a wayward subordinate. “Your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.” (v.16b). We are like a father who disciplines his children, but also like a mother who simply loves, reaching out and manifesting care to all.
We are kind and considerate. “Those who are righteous must be kind” (v.19a). We speak authoritatively but not autocratically. We are mindful of and concerned about the shortcomings of people and give appropriate help and counsel as needed. We do not give up on people, even though at times we might have to give them space, even in their own errors.
We are quick to forgive. We hold no grudges. “But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency” (v.18a). We rejoice when we are able to bring a brother back to living community in peace and joy.
We are always ready to welcome a repentant sinner back to the fold. “And you gave your children reason to hope that you would allow them to repent for their sins.” (v.19b). Our subordinates are children that we care for. They are always welcome to return to full fellowship of the family that is community.
In looking to those who are below us, we always look to God who is above us.
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