November 20, 2011

Politics all over the world seems to be a jumbled mess. With high profile officials literally being forced to resign, or dictators being, booted out of power, if not murdered in cold blood, potential candidates whose dirty past is slowly but surely being ferreted out for the whole world to see, and reigning presidents and national leaders being taken to task for promises unkept, and the whole economic scenario spiraling down beyond control, there is only conclusion we all can reasonably come up with …

The world is in dire straits as far as leadership is concerned. Everywhere, there seems to be a crisis in leadership. Presidents and Prime Ministers; dictators and despots all running the risk of being toppled down from their ivory towers and thrones, in palaces and principalities that they have occupied far too long; Kings and Queens who are all aging and frantically looking for worthy successors; with former presidents being charged for graft and dizzying levels of corruption; former generals now the object of public scrutiny for unexplained wealth (at least in my home country) … the list is legion …

The whole world is now mired in a big crisis in leadership!

No one believes in leaders, apparently. And no one believes especially in leaders whose only preoccupation seems to be walking in-step with big businesses, whose leaders get huge emoluments that are beyond the dream of the average worker who receives a pittance compared to what they get. “Occupy Wall Street” is one sign among many of such a rising level of disappointment and anger all over the world!

This is the backdrop of today’s solemnity – the Feast of Christ the King!

But hold your fire! … This feast does not glorify the type of leadership now currently being hated and looked askance at by people everywhere. This feast does not intend to glorify leaders who bring us nothing but grief, and who make us associate politics with everything disappointing and dirty.

Truth be told, this was exactly the same disappointment of ancient Israel. Their leaders often failed to take care of their own people. But enough is enough! Today, the Lord Himself shows us, not just tells us. “I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest.”

Right now, I act as leader myself. And in today’s postmodern, globalized settings, to be a leader is mostly seen as being a manager, an administrator, a CEO and COO and CFO all rolled into one. I get blamed for things I did not do. I get some flak for things I do, for things that some parents expect me to do; and for the same things that some parents don’t want me to do. Last week, one parent wanted me to put some sense into the mad traffic scramble during rush hour in the morning. The same day I instituted some changes in the traffic scheme, some parents were mad at the very scheme that some of them wanted instituted.

Searching for the common good is not a guarantee that common sense will automatically prevail, especially when one’s convenience and comfort zone are affected.

There is some Biblical, Christian value in what Greenleaf advocates as far as leadership is concerned – and that is, leadership as service – being a servant-leader.

This is the Kingship of Christ that we now extol. This is the Kingship of Christ that we now exult. This, for many reasons …

First, the Father Himself exalted Him as Lord: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” He is God. He is Lord. He is King, no less. But there is no problem about Him being King. He is Shepherd. He is care-giver. He is one “who seeks out the lost” and “brings back the strayed.”

But let us not just hold our fire. Let us check our guns. Let us look within us and check, not what kind of King He is, but what kind of followers we are!

I have it on the authority of Ronald Rolheiser … The problem is not that we have a King. The problem is we all want to be a king, but care not for the kingdom. We all want to claim we believe, but yet not belong. We want to enjoy all the perks of leadership, but not the responsibilities of being a servant-leader. We want Christ, but not His cross. We want the news about His rising, but not the equally good news of His suffering. We want a cross-less Christ and settle for an empty symbol of a Christ-less cross!

Yes, we want to be alive ourselves, and still claim the right to kill innocent lives, or at least, prevent them from ever seeing the light of day. We want the glory, but we got no guts nor gumption to pay the price for what we look for. We want quality life, but not the life that enjoys the qualities we have decided they should have. We want a designer world, and we forget about He who designed and created the world.

Yes … we claim and sing in unison that ours now is a problem of leadership!

But it takes two to tango. It takes three to tangle. Leadership is not only about having leaders up there. It also means having followers down below. Leadership is not just having people to browbeat us, and forcing us to do according to their bidding. It is also about having people who are willing to surrender, to offer themselves and their commitment.

The world faces not just a crisis of leadership. The world also has to deal with – and perhaps, more so – the bigger crisis of the led!

The world might indeed, be in need of worthy leaders, but leaders, no matter how good, won’t be able to do much if they did not have followers who were willing to collaborate, to contribute, to commit their time, talent, and treasure!

And here is where the good news comes in for all of us. There are goats and sheep from amongst us. And we ought to know just which is which for each one of us. Whilst it is true that the image of the Son of Man coming to separate the sheep from the goats is clear in the gospel, it also seems clear to me that, the implication ought to be clear, too, in our minds.

Leaders do the separating, the managing, and the administering. But followers who know their place, and who recognize the Shepherd for what he is, and who he is, knows better than to play like goats forever, but to act like sheep who need a Shepherd, and obey the Shepherd.

Christ does not need to be King in Himself and for Himself. But it is us who need Him to be King for us, to be shepherd on our behalf, and leader for our sake. But for our own sakes, for God’s sake, let us be good followers. Let us believe and belong. Let us seek, not just his Kingship, but more so His kingdom!

And yes, let us exult His Kingship, by extolling our followership. For it is not so much a crisis of leadership, as a crisis of people who only want to be King, but care nothing of His kingdom.