It’s difficult to go through a day and not hear about the battle which rages among political candidates. I know because I’ve tried!
The ongoing saga, which will last for another arduous nine months, is seemingly causing more people to ask, “Which leader would I follow?” Hillary or Bernie? Trump or Cruz? (And the list goes on…) Just the other day, I overheard two college-age students asking each other this very question. Although I care very little about politics, I believe that evaluating the leaders which we invite into positions of authority is very helpful – perhaps even critical – for disciples of Jesus.
Consider the leadership within the Northern tribes of Israel during the time that Isaiah was a prophet. The ninth chapter of Isaiah’s book, says that the elders and prophets of the land had been leading them astray (v16). What an understatement!
King Pekah had continued sacrificing to golden statues of cattle even while facing the threat of an Assyrian invasion. His corrupt leadership, along with teams of corrupt priests, cultivated a culture of people who lived in fear and entertained conspiracy theories (8:12), who had no compassion for the fatherless and the widows (9:17), and who would try to convince God’s people to stop listening to God and seek advice from mediums who practice witchcraft (8:19).
Corrupt leadership led the masses to a place of tireless distress and deep hunger (8:21). Why? Because the King himself carried the same spiritual angst. By the time that Isaiah stepped foot in the land, the nation of Israel had already grown to resent their own king – although they knew of nowhere else to turn. Israel indeed became a place where the ‘blind’ were leading the ‘blind.’
The leaders that we invite into our lives have an enormous impact on us – whether intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or subconsciously. Jesus articulated the effects of leadership in Matthew 10:25, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher.” Another way to put this would be, “We eventually become like those whom we look up to.”
It is for this reason that, as Christians, we ought to be very careful and selective with which leaders we admire or follow.
This of course goes way beyond church life or politics. Consider what you read, watch or listen to? How do they impact your image of leadership and the person you wish to become? Which coworker exhibits qualities that you want to acquire? Which athlete gets most of your attention? Which neighbor are you tempted to envy?
There are always many external influences which are vying for your undivided attention. But the right question is, “Will this leader (or influence) point me towards godly living or away from it?”
As far as we know, the prophet Isaiah had no earthly example to follow in his day. Corruption abounded from the town elders to the palace. Perhaps you can identify with him. Perhaps you see very few godly examples around you – in your workplace, in your family, in your community, or in your country.
Do not be discouraged because the Lord’s advice to Isaiah is also fitting for you: “Do not walk in the way of this people,” God told him, “instead honor me as holy” (8:11b,13a). When human leadership fails us, here is no need to grow bitter, or discouraged, or follow in their footsteps. Instead, it is the Lord himself who serves as our example, our leader, and our King. Praise the Lord for the earthly example of Jesus! It is enough for us to seek to be like Him - above all other examples of leadership that we see in the land.
As people are asking which leader to follow, what is your answer?