After Theresa May’s resignation, this month is expected to bring us our next Prime Minister. The prospect of a new Premier makes us all think about leadership. Much is at stake according to who leads us and how they lead us. Various virtues, talents and track records have been put forward to suggest suitability, but what is most important in a leader?
Jesus (in John 10) uses the imagery of people as sheep and leaders as shepherds, to offer a profound understanding of leadership. He warns that bad, self-orientated leadership is dangerous; “I tell you the truth, the one who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” Others are merely “hired hands”, in it for what they can get, not because they care about people. Jesus’ figure of speech picks up on ideas from the Old Testament. The sheepfold is the people of God, whose leaders were to care for them, protect them and lead them by teaching them God’s truth. Sadly, things were often different. Some were more concerned to fleece the sheep than care for them, coming “only to steal and kill and destroy…”
Bad leadership in any situation is dangerous, but Jesus speaks not just of our merely human leaders, but of His own life and example. He says, “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus’ claim is underlined by a truly remarkable thing that marks out why His leadership is different; “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In complete contrast to so many who lead for selfish reasons, for power or personal gain, Jesus gave himself fully for others. Jesus’ “laying down his life for the sheep…only to take it up again”, brings new life with God, for those who believe in Him.
Jesus provides a challenging model for leadership and responsibility in our day and age. Leadership as it’s meant to be, is about serving, good leadership is about giving for the benefit of others.
The old prayer used for hundreds of years in Parishes Churches remains a good one for our day, including for our new Prime Minister; “Almighty and everliving God…we beseech thee…to save and defend all Christian Kings, Princes, and Governors; and specially thy servant Elizabeth our Queen; that under her we may be godly and quietly governed: And grant unto her whole Council, and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and impartially minister justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.”