This is the second of a four part series on servant-leadership.
How are we to lead?
Servant leaders fight for whatâ€™s right not for whatâ€™s easy. They fight for lost causesâ€”which are the only causes really worth fighting for. This fighting for lost causes is the story line in Frank Capraâ€™s classic movie â€œMr. Smith Goes to Washington.â€ In one of Capraâ€™s greatest films, we get a compelling picture of what it means to live as a servant-leader.
â€œMr. Smithâ€ is the story of an idealistic and naive Midwesterner, Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart), appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill in for an ailing Senator. Upon arrival in the Capitol, Smith is reunited with the stateâ€™s senior Senator, presidential hopeful, and his childhood hero, Senator Joseph Paine. But itâ€™s not long before Smithâ€™s eyes are open to the graft of the politics and the corruption of his hero who is in leagues with the evil state political boss, Jim Taylor. Taylor first tries to corrupt Smith, and then he later attempts to destroy Smith through a scandal.
Fighting this lost cause, Smith finds himself filibustering the Senate. Everything is against him, his own inexperience, the power of Washington (Pain), and a crooked media mogul (Taylor). In spite of the odds, Smith stands up and tells the truth. More than telling the truth, Smith risk his own reputation and invites the nation to a noble vision of who and what they were made to be. After hours of speaking, Smith with his voice very hoarse and his legs very weak makes one last thrust.
Just get up off the ground, thatâ€™s all I ask. Get up there with that lady thatâ€™s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you wonâ€™t just see scenery; youâ€™ll see the whole parade of what Manâ€™s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. Thatâ€™s what youâ€™d see. Thereâ€™s no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, if thatâ€™s what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then weâ€™d better get those boysâ€™ camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And itâ€™s not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles donâ€™t get lost once they come to light. Theyâ€™re right here; you just have to see them again!
He continues to explain how to make this vision could be possible.
Because of just one, plain, simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine, and I loved you for it, just as my father did. And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them.
Smithâ€™s words echo a passage in the bible that speaks to this very thing. In the Bible, there is a distinction made between a shepherd and a hired hand (John 10:1â€“21). The crux of this passage is versus 11-13.
â€œI am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.â€
This passage illustrates how a shepherd has a passion for the sheep and a willingness to lay his life down for those he loves. On the flip side, the hired hand is unwilling to become that investedâ€”unwilling to face up to the dangers that threaten the sheepâ€”unwilling to truly love the people under his care.
It seems that the Judeo/Christian worldview of leadership is really quiet different than others. It is servant leadership for sure, but there is still something more at play. Time and time again in the Scriptures, when a leader is chosen by God to lead, most often the person is not anything like we might expect a qualified leader to look like. They most often are reluctant, lack self-confidence, inexperienced, they have been thwarted by their own sin, and they either lack vision or are ill equipped to communicate it.
Like Jefferson Smith, leaders in the bible tend to be people who would be unlikely to ever get elected to public office, be hired to run a fortune 500 company, or be on a leadership team at a local church. In the bible we see leaders like,
â€¢ Noah, who tended to drink too much.
â€¢ Abraham, who was really old and likely worshiped other godâ€™s before God chose him.
â€¢ Moses, who was hot tempered and lacked self-confidence in his leading.
â€¢ Gideon, who openly complained about how God was doing things.
â€¢ David, who was a redneck boy who grew into an adulterer, murder, and liar.
â€¢ Paul, who orchestrated genocide.
Looking at a biblical account, we begin to see that God does not chose leaders for any other reason than that he wants to. He chooses small people and uses them for big things. Paul puts it this way:
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised thingsâ€”and the things that are notâ€”to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from Godâ€”that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: â€œLet him who boasts boast in the Lord.â€
In his mercy,