Leadership (VIII): Righteous Boldness

…the righteous are bold as a lion (Prov.28:1).

One of the signal failures of modern church leadership has been an apparent emphasis on inoffensiveness. I believe this is because the church has been feminised, and it is an indictment upon us.

Now it is true, that no person should set out to offend people. But one mark of a godly leader is that he’s not afraid to offend people when there’s a moral principle at stake.

Godly leadership is to represent God, not man. The godly leader knows that he represents God, Whose judgments are “…righteous altogether” (Ps.19:9).

The Bible tells us that “an unjust man is abominable to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked” (Prov.29:27).

Pharoah intensely disliked Moses, but that was really an indication of Pharoah’s evil, and Moses’ willingness to serve God. Jezebel swore to kill Elijah. Why? Because he was thwarting her evil plans. John the Baptist incurred the wrath of Herodias, because he represented God, light and truth, when she was in evil, darkness and adultery.

“…what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship have light with darkness?” (II Cor.6:14)

Between darkness and light, is no common ground. If godly leadership leads to some people being offended, that’s life, and you can’t always do anything about it.

John Knox confronted Mary Queen of Scots, and she didn’t like it. She was adulterous, had murdered her husband, and was trying everything to thwart Knox’s plans for the godly reform of Scotland.[1] Could the tension between them have been lessoned on his part? Yes, by compromising with her, and Knox would have no part of it.

I believe some form of moral challenge comes to most, if not all leaders, from time to time. It must be dealt with quickly. He will either compromise and tolerate evil (which will only prolong and encourage the problem), or deal with the issue firmly and promptly.

God’s people generally want to see fearless leaders. The more discerning among them know what is at stake when there are issues of integrity to be dealt with. They appreciate it when they see their leaders protecting the flock from abuse. The Psalmist wrote that “he that practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me” (Ps.101:7).

In the Psalms, the Bible says that “God takes his stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Ps.82:1-2)

Paul lays out qualifications for leadership in I Tim.3:1-10, and twice he points out that an overseer or a deacon must be “beyond reproach” (v.2 & 10). Leadership begins with godly example.

When Paul was confronted with the incest evident in the Corinthian church, he wrote to them. He said that “for I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has committed this, as though I were present” (I Cor.5:3). He went onto say, “..do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (v.12-13)

How can the church expect to be taken seriously on vital aspects of society, if it cannot properly deal with its own fundamental issues of ethics? It is the ability of any hierarchy to deal proficiently with its staff problems that brings confidence to members of that institution.

There are rules in the Bible for private and public behaviour, beginning with the Ten Commandments. Those that show themselves unwilling to abide by these rules should have no hope of leading God’s people, for Jesus said that “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn.15:14).

And if church leaders who purport to be shepherds are unwilling or unable to properly lead and protect God’s people, they only expose themselves to God’s judgment.

It’s not loving towards anybody, to tolerate sin; it’s weak. It’s not loving towards God, or God’s people for a leader to be left in his position who has disqualified himself morally; it is actually expressing contempt for God’s people to do so. It’s saying they’re not worth protecting.

Well, Jesus thought they were important enough to die for. When it comes to the crunch, the welfare of the people of God is more important than any leader or individual. That’s the message of the Bible, and specifically of John 10:1-18.

[1] See Otto Scott, “The Fool as King,”1986.