Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Leader Do We Follow?

We live in an age that is uncomfortable with authority. Yet if we want to be more than isolated individuals, we need organization and leadership. Now we are more comfortable with some sort of meritocracy (or authority exercised by those who deserve it). But we are forced to ask, who merits authority and why? Do we base it on personal charisma or force of personality? Do we become enamored of personal appearance or clever speech? Even if we look for better qualities, such as righteousness, knowledge, and ability, we can be deceived. And we have to ask how much of these qualities is enough. Every human being has failings. When these become evident in a leader, do we disobey them or cast them aside? Do we spend our life seeking the perfect leader? And when we find a leader we believe deserves their position, do we can reject them when they show they are human?

This can be even more dangerous for the leader. They may feel they must constantly do things to justify their leadership. They may feel they need to pretend to be something they are not to accomplish this. And because it is hard to establish their authority based on real merit, it is easy to try to use superficial characteristics. Even worse, the desperate person may try to use force of personality or even actual force to defend their authority. This produces the kind of leader we do not want. A leader who is touchy of their prerogative and tries to beat down every affront. Once you reach the point where you have to defend your authority, you have already lost it unless you can impose it by force. But who can claim the right to authority based on their merits? Maybe a few, but they are indeed few.

Scripture comes from a different perspective.  It says those who are in authority are put there by the providence of God (Romans 13:1; Daniel 4:17; Acts 20:28). Now this should not keep us from  choosing the best leader we can when we have the option. And there is a point where we must serve God rather than man when there is a clear-cut choice between the two (Acts 4:19; 5:29; Daniel 3:17,18). Further, there is a place for rebuking those who are in authority if they are wrong (2 Samuel 12:1-4; Matthew 23:1-3; Galatians 2:11-14). But I do believe it means that whoever is in authority does not have to continually defend their authority. Nor do those under their authority need to keep evaluating them to see if they are worthy. This frees up the leader to not need to defend their position, but to be the servant God requires them to be (Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 22:24-30; 1 Peter 5:1-4). If a leader believes their position is their doing, they will have to be continually working to uphold it, but if they believe it comes from God, they are freed to do what God wants them to do.


  1. One of my first blog posts (in Jan 2005) was titled The Pope, Pastors and TV Preachers and dealt with spiritual authority. The main point I tried to share was that we should be more concerned with a person's influence in our lives than their authority.

    1. I would agree with that, and have a strong dislike of anyone who would put himself in a position resembling pope even on a minor level. But also think it helps if we see leaders as ordinary people who God has put it the position rather than someone who should be seen as on any sort of pedestal.