I was perusing the later chapters of John this morning when the heading of chapter 18 jumped out at me like a Drudge Report headline: Jesus Arrested.
Now, I understand the chapter headings were not written as part of the original manuscripts – neither were the chapter and verse numbers, for that matter. If you would have held up a “John 3:16” sign in a New Testament crowd, it would have had no effect at all. Hmmm. Some things don’t change.
Divinely inspired or not, the headline caught my eye and my imagination. In a moment, I twittered a quick thought about it…but the thought developed beyond what 140 characters can hold. I began to think about the nature of leadership and how it necessitates a certain edge that sets it apart from management.
To be fair, managers have a difficult job and are often reviled as Dilbertesque types. This isn’t about making light of the managerial role, but rather about how being a leader is an additional skill set that not all have. We sometimes equate a renegade with a good leader, making excuses for bad behavior because ‘he’s a renegade….’ but it’s not quite that simple.
It’s true that not all trouble makers are good leaders, but all good leaders are trouble makers.
There are people in leadership roles who aren’t leaders, they’re just too troublesome to be managers and too loud to ignore. Those aren’t the types I’m talking about. All true leaders do cause some element of trouble for those around them because they challenge the way things are done. It’s their calling.
If the Judaic sacrificial system were adequate to relieve the issue of sin once and for all, God wouldn’t have sent His Son. He would have sent a manager to balance to books, feed the sheep and clean up the blood.
The essence of leading is charting new courses and then bringing people with you. If your leader is making you uncomfortable with changes they want to implement, ask yourself if you’re being helpful with your second guessing. Certainly, our wholly-human leaders are not infallible, but in doing their job, they’re going to rattle people once in a while – ourselves included.
If you’re a leader who finds yourself managing out of self preservation, take a look at your situation and ask “What part of my world would best be adjusted with a baseball bat?” It might be time to break some systems down and cause some trouble.
Having a record of convictions raises eyebrows.
We find ourselves meeting a lot of people and answering the same questions repeatedly. “How long have you been married?” Twenty years. “How many kids?” Seven. “Where’d you meet?” Just once, I want to say “Prison….” and let it hang their like an over-ripe avocado. Nothing changes the tone of a conversation like an unexpected prior conviction.
There are convictions for wrong – the kind that put you behind bars – and there are convictions for right. Unfortunately, you’re often treated the same for having either kind. Leaders are constantly challenging others based on their own convictions. If they see something being done that they think is wrong – not just done poorly, but ethically wrong – they can’t look the other way.
Raising a conviction among those you’re leading sets you up for all sorts of criticism. You can be called holier than thou, you can be talked about behind your back, you can be kissed on the cheek by a betrayer and turned over to the authorities…but you can’t be a leader and look the other way.
Leadership doesn’t ride on consensus. It rides on convictions. If you can divorce yourself from your convictions while doing your job….well, you’ll manage, but you won’t lead.
Had Jesus led by appeasement rather than convictions, He might have survived the arrest episode. He could have talked his way out of the charges, made a few promises, and gone on to live into his eighties. He might have synagogue-planted and become quite successful actually. You don’t need strong convictions to do that.
Instead, He laid down his life for His conviction that you and I needed redemption, not just life coaching.
I’m glad Jesus was a leader.
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