Points to Ponder : Effective Leaders Die Trying

Points to Ponder
Effective Leaders Die Trying

Below my photo in my high school yearbook is the word "President:" because that's what I wanted to be. Common sense has since prevailed and I have found more reasonable and, I am sure, more effective ways to serve my country and make the world a better place.
Marvin Olasky, Provost at the King's College, said, "Cultural change leads to political change. If a politician can fix a problem, it's not that big a problem." I recall pastor and author Bill Hybels saying something similar. In his dealings with government leaders, he realized that the best they can do is move the yard markers on the playing field. Real change that makes a positive difference happens when real lives are touched by others who care.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).
That's agape love, a Greek term that describes a willful self-sacrifice for the good of another. What politician pursues elected office to die? Jesus of course was referring to His own death for the sake of our salvation. But there are numerous ways to die, or to "lay down one's life for his friends." Government doesn't do that, because government does not love. People do that.
Note in these hard times that the upper-level layers of bureaucracy, consisting of individuals earning six-figure incomes plus benefits, are rarely slashed for the sake of serving the public - even though they are called "public servants." It will be services to senior citizens or the schools or the public safety departments that will make the sacrifice. It will never occur to a governor to host a state dinner of macaroni and cheese and hotdogs.
When I was twelve years old, I began paying attention to politics and elections. As a child, I did not understand why adults running for high office behaved like bickering children. If their debates had been staged at the elementary school playground, it would have been fitting. Perhaps this is why many folks get disgusted at election time. You tend to put your hopes on these people and yet deep down a lot of us know we can't. It's especially sad when the pursuit of power brings out the worst in individuals we once admired.
"Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. A wise man's heart is at his right hand, but a fool's heart at his left" (Ecclesiastes 10:1-2).
Politicians both locally and nationally have come and gone. The battles are the same, as are the promises. Same game, different players. Little accomplished. As I have observed this over the last three decades, the thing that keeps coming back to me is the one thing we all share in common: mortality. Why do politicians protect their jobs and their friends at the expense of the hard choices and sacrifices that true leadership demands? If voting for or against something that one knows is right will cost them the election - so what? We're here for a time in history to make our individual contributions, then you die. Scripture warns us:
"Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish" (Psalm 146:3-4).
Leadership isn't about having a title or winning an election. A good strategy can (and has) get any bonehead elected; and with the right connections, anyone can get promoted to a level of power that can make them dangerous.
So seldom do we see real leadership, the laying down of one's life (career, reputation, political image) for the sake of the greater good of others. Jesus is the model; the servant-leader, the shepherd, the humble One who didn't need to pull rank ("I'm God, you're not.") to do anything.
It's been two thousand years since He physically walked the earth, yet He still leads. The politicians who serve multiple terms, have things named after them, and make the news a few times soon pass the scene. All their strategies, connections, political ambitions are gone and forgotten.
Consider: who were our U.S. Senators and Representatives in Congress in 1898? 1908? 1928? What did they contribute then? What can you, right there, contribute now?
I think it's best to look back at today from the perspective of your own funeral. Life is a vapor (James 4:14-16); you are writing your obituary now. When you've been planted in the ground and folks are back at your place eating fried chicken and potato salad, what will they remember about your life? Did you leave a legacy - or a mess? Did you live for something bigger than yourself?
"...it will be well for those who fear God" (Ecclesiastes 8:12).

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.