Minister’s letter – What we expect from leaders, and how it points to Christ
Last month I started reading Dominion by Tom Holland (the historian, not the actor.) It tells the story of how the values in our liberal democratic tradition stem from Christianity’s influence. He says that in the ancient world, to be a leader was to be an overpowering force that suffered no opposition. Into this mix came Jesus who, although identifying as the Messiah, ‘made himself nothing’ (Phil 2.7). As Christianity spread, the ideal of servant orientated leadership began to take hold, although human sinfulness would always make it hard for such a model to be exercised with complete integrity.
Despite our imperfect record, we still have serious expectations that leaders act as public servants. Witness our shock when we see ‘strong man’ leaders of other nations flex their authority without any care for justice or accountability, who refuse to share power or stand aside. Why does this offend us so? We could argue that without Christianity, such leadership would be the norm.
Tom Holland is not a Christian, but he wrote Dominion because he wanted to know why the values of the ancient world were far removed from his own. The difference, it seems, is Christianity. What is on offer in Christ is good not just for our eternal security, but for human flourishing now. Pray that the ‘salt and light’ (Matt 5:13-14) that so benefits the world will be spread through our own witness.