Sunday, August 31, 2014

More Thoughts on Loving Leadership

Earlier this summer, I wrote a post entitled Loving Leadership, in which I shared some some things about leadership that I've learned in my experiences as both a leader and a follower.

But I've been thinking more about leadership lately, and I thought I'd follow up with another blog on loving leadership.

There's a popular children's game (or it used to be popular) called Follow the Leader.  The game was simple.  The leader would walk in front of a line of other children, and the followers would follow the leader around.  Sometimes the followers would just walk in line behind the leader, and sometimes they would mimic the leaders actions.

With children's games like this, it's no wonder I grew up with an image in my head of a leader being someone who goes in front of others.  And certainly, that is part of what a leader must do.  A leader should go before the followers.  A leader should either already know what's ahead or be the one to experience it first.

But I've been reading in Genesis lately, and I've realized there's another aspect of leadership.  I noted this aspect through two bad examples of leadership.

In Genesis, in the beginning, God created everything.  He made the earth and the skies, the sea and the land, the plants and all the animals.  And He made Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden.  They were allowed to eat from every tree except one.

It was never really clear how much time passed before Satan tempted Eve, and she ate of the fruit.  They might have lived quite happily in that garden for centuries.  They might not have lasted the week.  Knowing sin and temptation like I do, I'm going to guess it was the latter.

So Eve ate the forbidden fruit and really messed things up for everyone.  Thanks a lot, Eve.  Humanity was cursed forever because you just had to eat the fruit.

But I have one question.  Where was Adam?

Let's see if we can figure out where Adam was:

Gen. 3: 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 

That's interesting.  That's very interesting.  According to Scripture, Adam was right there with Eve when she ate the fruit.  I'm assuming that he was also there during the temptation.

And I'm not going to speculate too much on this, but I'm assuming also that Adam was already the established leader in the relationship.  I do know that part of Eve's curse was that her husband rule over her, but I think a Godly sort of husband leadership was already in place before the Fall.  If this was the case, then why didn't Adam speak up?  Why didn't Adam protect his wife?  Why didn't Adam stop her from doing what they both knew to be wrong?

He didn't do any of these things.  Instead, he ate of the fruit when she gave it to him.  He just ate it.  And later, when they got caught, Adam started the finger pointing.  He blamed Eve, and what's worse, he blamed God for giving Eve to him.  But my question still stands.  Where was Adam?

Because although Adam was right there with Eve, he wasn't present in the way that he needed to be.  I do not discount Eve's grave sin; she was at fault.  However, I would be so bold as to state that the greater sin was Adam's.  He was the leader, and as the leader, he should have stood by what God had commanded.  He should have protected his wife.  Instead, he went along with whatever she said, and thus, humanity was cursed with sin and all its wages.

This isn't Scripture, but I really like something John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost.  When God questioned Adam for his sin, and Adam blamed Eve, God had an interesting response:

"Was she thy god?"

Was she?  Perhaps so.  For instead of following God's leadership, instead of being the godly leader that he should have been, he just went along with Eve's sin.

I have another example from Genesis, also involving a husband and a wife.

In Genesis 19, we have the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  We also have an unusual case of a lady, identified only as Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt after turning back to look at the doomed cities.  The angels had warned them not to look back.  But Lot's wife did, and she was also destroyed.

But my question here is similar to the one I asked in the Genesis 19 account.  Where was Lot?

Genesis 19:23-26
23 The sun had risen over the land when Lot reached Zoar. 24 Then out of the sky the Lord rained burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord. 25 He demolished these cities, the entire plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and whatever grew on the ground.26 But his wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.

Now, it's not clear exactly where Lot was when his wife looked back, but one thing is abundantly clear from the entire account of Lot's escape from Sodom.  He was terrified.  He didn't want to leave; the angels had to drag him and his family along.  He didn't want to flee to the mountains, but instead pleaded to be allowed to run to the small town of Zoar.  And after his wife became the first Morton's girl (yes, I went there), he took his daughters off to the mountains, after all, because it turned out that  he was also afraid to live in Zoar.  And that's when things got disgusting all over again, but I digress.

See, I think it can be assumed that Lot was running ahead of his wife.  It sounds as though he just might have reached the city before she did.  I think it can be assumed that he wasn't running with her, nor was he running ahead of her as to lead her, but he was running ahead to save his own skin.  And, again, I'm assuming much here, but I think it's reasonable to say that Lot's wife might not have looked back if Lot had been with her.  Had he been leading her out of love, running with her, she might have survived the flight from Sodom.  As a result, she might have been there to guide her daughters to make better choices.  The Moabites and Ammonites (born of the incestuous relationships between Lot and his daughters) might never have existed to cause strife with Israel.  A lot of sin might have been prevented if one man might have been less fearful for his own sake, and more concerned for the welfare of his family members.

Sometimes, a leader has to walk on ahead, go on before, to lead the way.  It's much like in those silly childhood games of follow the leader.  But I'm learning that a good leader sometimes leads in a much different way.  Instead of walking on before, sometimes the best leader will come along beside.  Because we're not children playing silly games anymore, and I've learned that people are more likely to follow well when the leader is able and willing to come down and meet them where they are. 

I have one other example of a leader, but this is a good example.

When Jesus called his disciples, they came.  They left their fishing boats and nets and family members and they came.  Immediately.  When Jesus called Matthew, a tax collector and sinner, he came.  Why?  Why would these men follow Jesus just because he told them to follow?  

Because Jesus wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty.  He wasn't afraid to dine with those tax collectors and sinners.  He wasn't afraid of what others might think or even of what others might do.  He came along others and met them at their point of need. 

If anyone had any right to point fingers, it would have been Jesus.  If anyone had any right to save his own skin, it would have been Jesus.  But Jesus didn't flee from pain and death.  Jesus didn't pass blame.  Jesus loved.  And people followed him.  People still do.  I certainly try to.

And I know I'm still learning to be a leader.  Shoot, I'm still learning to be a follower.  But I know I've got to be humble and accept my own weaknesses.  I know that I have to trust beyond all my fears.

It's hard to follow.  It's hard to lead.  It's even harder to do both at the same time.  But I think a person has to learn to do both in order to be really good at either.  We need to trust God to come along side us as well as learn to come along side others.  We need to be humble as well as confident that the One who gave us our leadership abilities and positions is guiding us as we lead.  We need not to point fingers.  We need not to be afraid.  

We need to follow the Leader, and we need to trust Him as He leads us to lead.  

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