Since I was out of state in trial for three weeks last month, I asked Andy Birchfield, a lawyer in our firm, to write this section of the report. He gladly agreed to do so. I believe you will find Andy’s words inspiring, thought-provoking and helpful.
Edmund G. Ross was a newly elected Senator from Kansas in 1866. The country approached a crucial crossroad. The Civil War had ended. President Lincoln had been assassinated. Andrew Johnson had succeeded to the presidency. Even before the war’s end, Abraham Lincoln had advocated a path to reconciliation between the North and South. Many in Congress preferred instead to rule the rebellious South with an iron fist. President Johnson pursued Lincoln’s course toward unifying the nation. As a result, impeachment proceedings were brought against Johnson. The result of the impeachment proceedings would determine the direction of the nation between two radically different paths. The impeachment vote was going to be close. Those supporting impeachment believed that the election of Senator Ross had secured the 35th vote they needed to prevail. After being elected, however, Ross announced his view that President Johnson deserved a fair trial. With that statement, his vote on impeachment was considered shaky. Enormous political pressure was then applied to sway his vote in favor of impeaching President Johnson. Ross knew that his bright political career would likely come to an end if he chose to vote his conscience as opposed to yielding to the pressure. At the end of the impeachment trial as his name was called in the roll call vote, Ross knew, politically speaking, he was looking at his own grave. Without hesitation, he announced “not guilty.”
Contrary to Senator Ross’ example of true leadership, it appears that many of our elected officials recently chose to put their political careers ahead of our nation’s best interest. This led to the shutdown of our government and brought our nation to the brink of default. Should we expect more? What qualities should we look for in leaders? What should we expect from those who assume roles of leadership? The Bible provides answers and some very good examples.
Nehemiah, as an exile in Babylon, had risen to a prominent position. He was the cupbearer to the Persian king. When Nehemiah received a report of the desperate condition of the city of Jerusalem and the despair of his countrymen residing there, his heart was broken. After four months of prayer and fasting, Nehemiah risked it all to petition the king for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s wall; a wall that was necessary to provide the Israelites security from surrounding enemies. Because of the sensitive nature of his position, simply making the request could have easily cost Nehemiah his life. Nehemiah nonetheless courageously presented a carefully crafted plan and received the king’s blessing. Then, Nehemiah followed through with the plan despite tremendous opposition and challenges. He rallied the people of Jerusalem and successfully completed the wall in just 52 days!
In both Nehemiah and Senator Ross we find examples of leaders who, first, put the interest of others ahead of their personal interest. Secondly, both men had a clear sense of purpose. Thirdly, they demonstrated the courage to follow through in the face of stiff opposition. The ultimate example of true leadership, however, is Jesus. In selfless obedience Jesus humbled Himself and endured a brutal execution to pay the penalty for our sin so that we may be reconciled to the one true, holy God (Philippians 2:3-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He had a definite understanding of purpose; Jesus knew that His purpose was to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He would not be distracted from fulfilling this purpose despite great temptations (Matthew 4), nor would He be deterred by opposition (John 18:11). Selfless concern for others, commitment to a clear purpose, and the courage to follow through are qualities we should look for in leaders.
More importantly, these are qualities we should cultivate in our own lives. We are all leaders in some capacity. Whether it is in our relationships with our children, co-workers, neighbors or family, we all have somebody looking to our example. We should have the mind of Christ and follow His example of compassionate and caring servant leadership. We should act with courage when facing opposition or obstacles. We should maintain a steadfast commitment to the purpose to which we are called.
But what if we don’t yet have a clear sense of God’s calling or purpose in a specific way like Nehemiah did in building a wall or Jesus did in going to the cross? Then we should make ourselves available for such service by daily surrendering our lives to the Lord and earnestly seeking His will. His desire is for us to seek His will with our whole heart – not with a heart divided between our selfish desires and His plan (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Regardless of our circumstances though, we all have Jesus’ clear command that we are to love God and love others wholeheartedly. That’s a calling for all people at all times. It’s a calling that requires selflessness and courage. And, it is a calling worthy of our unswerving commitment!
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