Leaders Get What They Want?

We often think that a leader is someone who gets to make decisions; a leader is someone who gets whatever they want.  This couldn't be more wrong-headed; a godly leader is a person who no longer thinks about what would fulfill his own desires, and instead works hard to make the community healthy and fruitful.  A leader shouldn't give people the things that he desires for himself, but instead, a leader should give people the things that they need to flourish.

Leaders don't do what makes themselves happy, they do what makes other people healthy.


Racial Politics: Why our Rhetoric Matters

I heard an interview on the radio the other day…

I am not even sure of the station or the program as I was driving out of the area.  But the program host was discussing with guests and callers the situation surrounding one of the recent shootings of black men by police officers, and the surrounding protests, the movements, the politics, the social forces, etc.

A woman called in and said something that I thought was profoundly important about race relations in our country.

She identified herself as an 'older, African-American, woman,' and she proceeded to say that in her experience white bigotry is no longer an important factor in our racial problems, rather white apathy is the problem.  She talked about other factors (the history of bigotry, and the black community's own apathy), but she talked mostly about how problematic and inaccurate it was to diagnose the problem as 'white racism;' in her experience, most white people aren't racists, they just aren't willing to do much of anything about the plight of black communities if it costs them personally.

I thought this profoundly important for several reasons:

1) Its true: while it is true that bigotry endures in our day, it is not the problem that it once was.  It is no longer acceptable by our culture, indeed calling someone a racist in many circles is a serious charge that most people will respond to with strong emotions.  The majority of white people in America are completely in favor of a society where people of all colors can freely share in the wealth, power, and blessing of our nation, and they are personally willing to engage relationally with people of all colors.  …but not if it costs them anything to do so!

2) Its informed: she had obviously spent enough time engaging with white people that she understood what was going on inside the hearts and minds of individuals and communities.  This is not just about proximity, but also about a desire to understand those who are different than you.

3) Its honest: saying what is true about a situation, instead of throwing insults at one's socio-political opponents, is a display of integrity.  It feels good to insult people, especially if they have hurt you.  But calling someone a bigot, when you know that they are not a bigot, is simply dishonest.

4) Its helpful: imagine a Doctor who was so bent on the eradication of cancer that he diagnosed every patient he saw with cancer and gave them chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Compare that to a Doctor who was so concerned with the health of her patients that she carefully and methodically diagnosed each patient's symptoms for their various root causes and then applied the appropriate treatment for each individual case.  It simply doesn't help to call someone a racist who isn't a racist.  That usually only produces righteous indignation, and resolute opposition.  It simply doesn't help to ignore apathy in a lazy person or a lazy society.  Pointing at the real problem helps highlight the real solution.  A misdiagnosis erodes trust and hurts everyone involved.

5) Its generous: it would be easier to point at the actual white racism that exists.  It would be easier to point at the rhetoric of politicians who foment racial fear to gain votes.  But instead, she chose to look beyond that, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and to seek to understand.  She wanted to point at what was good in the white community and their response to racial politics.

6) Its hopeful: seeking to have an honest dialogue about a sticky topic is an indicator that you want to see progress.  Too often sticky topics are simply used by those attempting to gain political power.  Calling names, provoking anger, inciting fear, fomenting dissension, this is what we see politicians do with all divisive issues, and with race in particular.  They do it so that they can get elected.  But it doesn't help us heal, it actually gets in the way.  To hear a woman speak this way is an indicator that she actually hopes for healing; she actually believes our society can change.


God's (Most Frequent) Commandment

We are all familiar with the 10 Commandments; God's list of moral rules for the people of Israel.  We have a tendency to view them as 'rules to prevent us from having too much fun' but in all honesty, they are actually rules that would provide for our greatest joy!  Can you imagine a society in which those commandments were largely obeyed by all?  No dishonesty, no theft, no murder, no rape, no manipulation, no cheating...

When we look to Jesus we see him practicing and teaching the 10 Commandments, but we also see him amending them in some ways.  He claims that there are 'higher' or 'greater' commandments behind the list from the Covenant through Moses.  The Greatest Commandments are first, to love God with all of our being, and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Indeed, if we were to practice these two commandments as a society, we would fulfill the other 10 without even thinking about them!

But for all our talk about the 10 Commandments, and the Great Commandments, we have forgotten about a very different sort of commandment.  It is God's 'most frequent commandment.'  It may not be on the list, but its the one he repeats more often than any other commandment.  For some reason, whenever God is interacting with a person, or a people, He finds it necessary to repeat the following commandment, over and over again:

Do not fear.

I will leave aside, for the moment, reflections as to why standing in the presence of God, or one of His holy angels, would prompt us to fear.  The question stands before us, can you imagine a society where we were not motivated by our fear? …our fear of each other, our fear of embarrassment, our fear of conflict, our fear of failure, our fear of pain and loss, our fear of death?  Can you imagine a society of Christians who walked into every dark corner of our world, neigh every dark corner of our soul! with abiding hope and faith in the goodness and power of God to overcome that darkness?

That is the society of God's Children, it is the church that God hopes for.

Do not be afraid.
Don't be scared.
Be not afraid.
Fear not.
Don't be afraid.

Do not fear.


Look in the Mirror

I am not nearly as impressed with the man
who can see the fault in his enemy
as I am with the man
who can see the fault in himself.