Jesus is the only ideal ruler who can show humilityPublished 9:51am Friday, November 16, 2012
Column: Across the Pastor’s Desk
By the Rev. Nancy Overgaard, Thorne Crest Retirement Community
With the 2012 elections behind us we now know who our next president will be, together with our state and local leaders. Some among us are elated, others deflated. Yet, the chances are no one is completely satisfied since no candidate is perfect. But, would we even recognize the perfect leader if one appeared? What qualities does the ideal leader possess?
In Psalms 45, known as a psalm of the royal hero, the psalmist identifies three core values every leader of his day was to practice and promote (truth, humility and righteousness) and one overarching principle they were to live by. To the degree its national leaders lived by those values, the nation prospered and flourished. To the degree they did not, the nation suffered the consequences. Just as we do in our day, the ancient Israelites kept hoping for the perfect leader, one who would measure up to their highest ideals. Yet, time after time they were disappointed as their leaders continued to fall short by greater and lesser degrees. Still, they kept hoping and believing the ideal leader would one day emerge.
Centuries later, though we refer to them in slightly different terms, we seem to yearn for the same qualities in our own leaders. Honesty remains a core value for us. We, too, want leaders who are truthful, dependable, genuine, leaders who keep their word and prove to be worthy of our trust, people of integrity. We are frustrated, angry and disappointed when we learn our leaders have been deceitful and dishonest with us. We hate corruption. Honesty is not just a quality we want in our leaders, we crave it in our society. We hate to be scammed, swindled or cheated. We detest fraud and deception. We long to live in a society free of those ills.
Humility, a term that is also translated as meekness and gentleness in the Bible, may not be a quality we typically associate with leaders in our part of the world. Yet, we clearly dislike the alternative. Who wants a leader who is haughty or arrogant? Who wants elected officials who are quarrelsome and argumentative, critical and catty, bitter and angry? All of those negative qualities are contrasted with humility in the Bible. For the ancient Greeks, this quality of humility or gentleness was to be preferred over roughness, bad temper and outbursts of anger.
In our culture, some may chafe at the mention of righteousness. It may sound old school, religious or highbrow. Yet, stated in modern terms, is this, too, not a quality we want in our leaders? For, who does not want leaders who have high ethical and moral standards? Who was not mortified by the sex scandal involving members of the Secret Service in Columbia who were there to protect the president? Who is not frustrated by corruption and abuse of taxpayer funds by leaders entrusted to allocate them wisely?
As an overarching principle, leaders in the Old Testament were expected to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. How would they know? Every king was expected, not only to read God’s word, God’s law. Every king was expected to write out his own copy so that he would be thoroughly acquainted with it and apply it to every situation. Each king was evaluated at the end of his life by whether he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord or whether he did not. The historical books of the Old Testament tell the tale of how profoundly the nation was impacted for good and for ill by whether or not its kings adhered to this one principle.
All too often, its leaders fell woefully short of the ideal. Ironically, and perhaps more tragically, the nation time and again rejected some of the leaders, political and religious, who came the closest to these ideals (1 Samuel 8:7) including the only one who would ever perfectly fulfill them (Luke 17:25). Yet the psalmist (in Psalm 45) remained hopeful that this perfect ruler, this royal hero, would one day emerge, and we can, too.
If you long to be governed by a leader who is unfailingly honest, compellingly humble, who lives by the highest moral and ethical standards and always does what is right in the eyes of the Lord; if you yearn to be part of a society in which everyone shares those same core values, take heart. You will not find that leader anywhere on the ballot. Nor will ours ever be a perfect society. But, the message of Psalm 45 is that the ideal ruler is coming and he will not disappoint. For the psalmist is pointing us to none other than Jesus Christ and to His eternal rule (Hebrews 1:8-9). The good news is that to be part of his kingdom, to come under his rule, you need not wait for the majority to rule. You need only to cast your own vote, and there is no waiting in line. For “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.” (John 1:12)