If God Vetted Our Leaders

August 2, 2020

‘Tis the season for choosing our country’s leadership once again.  Time to assess those who have led us in the past, those who hope to lead us into the future, and discern exactly who is THE ONE.

Thankfully, since I don’t have cable TV, I’m not subjected to the barrage of political commercials that have undoubtedly been flooding the airwaves. Still, I’m inundated with commentaries, news stories, opinion polls and surveys that are a fact of life on streaming services; not to mention the social platforms with their harsh pontifications and judgmental certitudes! Everybody has an opinion!

Did you know the definition of opinion? A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. Opinions are shaped through the filter of our own preferences and needs and unfortunately become the benchmark by which we choose our leaders.

But, I wonder: what if God vetted our leaders? What benchmarks would God use?

My covenant with those who read this blog is that it be apolitical, and I won’t violate that trust.   However, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of God’s benchmarks for leadership and discover how they were – or weren’t – met by those in leadership back in the day, without adding my opinions, of course. We will just do a bit of exegesis and then let the Spirit lead us in our times of personal discernment (you may already have done some research as well, and I would love to hear from you).

So… to begin….. 

What kind of leaders does God choose?  What are the leadership qualities God blesses?  What kind of leaders does God disapprove of?…….

Without getting into the weeds, here are just a few divine benchmarks I have found; benchmarks which, when met, resulted in great blessing for all: 

  • God’s blessing for leadership is given to those who don’t hold back things for themselves or function as people pleasers. The words of instruction God spoke in this particular scripture are harsh; but, as we read, we see Saul didn’t destroy the best of the bounty, but rather kept it for himself and to please the people. (1 Samuel 15)
  • God’s blessing is given to those who don’t overstep their authority. Saul was a king – not a prophet, nor priest. Yet, when Samuel, who was both priest and prophet, didn’t show up to bless a battle within Saul’s expected timeframe, the frightened king’s assumed Samuel’s authority for himself. It didn’t end well. (1 Samuel 13:1-14).
  • God’s blessing of leadership is given to those who are able to accept criticism and be held humbly accountable.  King David was a leader after God’s own heart, yet he became an adulterer, a murderer, and then engaged in a cover-up!  (2 Samuel 11-12). Doesn’t sound like a great leader, but he was! How so? When held accountable for his behavior, David admitted his sin, asked forgiveness, and started over (Psalm 51).
  • God’s blessing of leadership is given to those who value the lives of their inner circle rather than exploit them. David expressed a need (thirst) with no expectation that his followers would risk their lives to meet his need. This event became a cautionary tale for David’s future behavior.  (2 Samuel 15:8-17)
  • God’s blessing of leadership is given to those who stay focused on the greater good, rather seeking to increase their own power and prestige. Solomon was considered the wisest of all humans (1Kings 4:29-34). Yet, that wisdom was diminished by his increased focus on himself rather than on the nation he led. (1 Kings 11:1-13; 1 Kings 10
  • God’s blessing of leadership is given to those who value the ones in their care. Many kings, of both Israel and Judah, exploited their people and emulated the practices of the surrounding nations – to include child sacrifice (Ezekiel 16:20-22), in order to gain international favor and personal power whatever the cost. These leaders were rejected by God as indicated by the chilling phrase that accompanies the conclusion of each one’s rule: “he did not follow in the ways of God.”  

These benchmarks, and others, are neatly summed up in Ezekiel 34, beginning with the woes pronounced on the shepherds – the leaders – of Israel (Ezekiel 34:1-10a) who:

  • Were only concerned with themselves, not those in their care
  • Exploited the people for their own gain
  • Did not care for the weak, the sick, the injured, the widows, orphans, and aliens in the land, nor did they look for the lost (the marginalized) to bring them home
  • Ruled so harshly that the people scattered

God’s response? Basically, “I’ve got this:” (Ezekiel 34:10b-31).

+ + +

Ezekiel 34 is one of the most important texts in the Old Testament when it comes to benchmarks for leadership and our vetting of potential leaders.  Not only did God speak – but the Word became flesh!  The true leadership of God, revealed in Christ, was that of One Who’s primary concern was sacrificial love and compassion for all humanity.

Of course, I’m not saying our leaders are supposed to be Christ incarnate. However, I am saying that God’s benchmarks are to be the standards for our vetting of those who want to lead us! I find it ironic that so many who want to lead us bandy God’s name about during their campaigns, yet don’t actually lead by God’s standards.

So, I invite you answer some vetting questions for yourself as you choose who is worthy of leading us and you might have more questions you can share with me. But for now:

  • Who is best suited to nurture God’s flock and most willing to advocate for the weak? (Isaiah 40:11)
  • Who is most willing to lead in such a way that justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream?  (Amos 5:24)
  • Who is most willing to sacrifice self for the good of all? (John 15:13)
  • Who is the one who most authentically models humble service? (Romans 12:3)
  • Who is most able to seek reconciliation and healing with their enemies? (Matthew 5:43-48)

Who is such a leader in these trying times? I pray the Spirit will lead all of us during this time of important discernment.

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

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