What is good government?
Well, here we go. A federal election campaign is underway here in the Truth North Strong and Free, and I feel compelled to reflect on what I believe to be the most critical issue facing our nation. No, it’s not the deficit, or unemployment, or the environment, or the needs of the poor and the elderly, or the potential legalization of euthanasia, or the government’s alleged contempt of Parliament – even though all those issues are important.
In my view, the most critical issue facing our nation is the absence of credible leadership.
I have voted in every federal election since I was of voting age, but I have no particular allegiance to any party and no interest in persuading you to choose one of them over the others. I do have an allegiance, but it’s not to any of our political parties or their leaders. My allegiance is to the Kingdom of God as proclaimed and embodied by Jesus the Messiah. I want to share with you some reflections on what Jesus had to say about leadership. Whether or not you share my faith in Jesus, my prayer is that these reflections will help bring clarity and insight to your own thoughts about the type of government that Canada needs.
The various political parties all want you to think that good government begins with a vote for them. The Conservatives want you to believe that you should vote for them because they are the only ones who can manage the economy properly, while the other parties are all irresponsible spendthrifts who would form a coalition and ruin the country. The Liberals want you to believe that you should vote for them because they are the only real alternative to the Conservatives, who disrespect Parliament, are arrogant liars, and have lost the right to govern. The New Democrats want you to vote for them because they are the only ones who truly care about the people. The Greens want you to vote for them because they are the only ones who truly care about the environment, and the Bloc wants you to vote for them (at least, if you live in La Belle Province) because they are the only ones who truly care about Quebec.
So, whichever party you support, the message of each party leader – although it seems to be different – is the same in at least one respect. Each leader says, “I am the one you should trust; I alone can deliver good government – so vote for me.”
According to the Genesis creation account, God created human beings for the purpose of governing the earth on His behalf. A look at human history shows that this hasn’t worked out so well. That’s not because God had a bad plan, but because humans turned away from God and became obsessed with themselves. Ever since our first parents fell into this trap, some human governments have been better than others, but even the best ones eventually seem to stumble over the same old stumbling block of pride, whether it manifests itself in a naked lust for unbridled power, or in more subtle forms such as the age-old human desire to impress others and make a name for ourselves. Religious institutions are often no better – in fact sometimes they’re even worse. Century after century, these destructive tendencies of the human heart have proven to be enduring obstacles to good government, whether in nations, religious institutions, families, or any other entity with a governing structure.
Even Jesus had to deal with politicking among the members of his team. They were all convinced that He was the promised Messiah who would eventually rule over the whole earth, so the members of his staff began jockeying for positions in his impending government, and started an argument about who would get to be his right hand man.
Jesus’ response was interesting. He didn’t say that they misunderstood him and he wasn’t really planning to be a king. He also didn’t say that wanting to be a leader was a bad thing. Instead, he challenged his men about whether they were willing to pay the price of leadership. He told them that true leadership involves crucifying your own desire for power or recognition, and learning to be a servant.
His message wasn’t just empty words. In just a few short weeks, he would give them a graphic object lesson of just how far he was willing to go down the road of servant leadership. Although Jesus could have chosen a different path, he willingly offered his life on the cross so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God. Servant leadership, as modelled by Jesus, does not mean being whatever people want you to be, and doing whatever they want you to do. It does not mean doing whatever it takes to stay popular. It means walking a consistent path of obedience to the One who has called you and to Whom you belong, inviting others to join you on that path but leaving the choice to them, loving them no matter what they choose, and investing your life – even to the point of death – for those you are called to lead and to serve. Here is a leader who is worthy of our trust!
God cares about government. It matters to him. One day He will replace all the governments of this earth with a government headed by Jesus. In the meantime, good leaders are those who understand and imitate His example of humility, servanthood and integrity.
William Wilberforce, whose life was depicted in the movie Amazing Grace (2006), was such a leader. He’s not the only example of a democratic politician who embodied true servant leadership, but he is one of the best. One could say that he gave his life for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. His political career was an expression of his Christian convictions. He had a massive impact for good on the society of his time. He did not seek power for its own sake, but sought to use his power to embody the values of the Kingdom of God.
This is good government. This is true leadership. Lord, grant us such leaders in our day.