Why Not Now?
Breakthrough to Reformation:
Renewing Community Leadership and Life through Christ
(CC Series, 10: September 2000)
“Folly-tricks!” With a bitter pun, Caribbean street wisdom aptly sums up the state of politics all across our chain of islands and coastlands.
Christians often add “politics is dirty,” meaning that, since we should keep ourselves “unspotted from the world,” we should not soil ourselves by dealing with it too closely. (Oddly, “business is dirty” — an equally half-true observation — is relatively rare: there are far more Christians in business than in politics across the Caribbean!)
But, as Ephesians 4:10 reminds us, Jesus came, descending and ascending as Lord “in order to fill all things.” If “all” means all, then politics — the art and science of power, influence and leadership in the community — cannot properly be excluded from the “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” [Eph. 2:10.]
That is, we should promote the renewal and reformation of the community, its leadership, its culture and its life through the gospel: the truth, in love, purity and God’s power.
Jesus, who holds “all authority in heaven and on earth,” has commissioned us to “disciple the nations.” [Matt. 28:19, cf. Colossians 1:20 – 29.] Thus, it is through discipleship that we are to shape communities, their cultures and leadership.
For instance, as Paul points out: “there is no authority except that which God has established . . . for [the ruler] is God’s servant to do you good . . . an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” [Romans 13:1 & 4; emphasis added. Cf. Colossians 1:15 – 20.] Such a community leader will obviously be able to do a better job if he or she openly acknowledges and lives by this duty to serve God.
Paul, in speaking to the leaders of Athens, adds: “From one man, [God] made every nation . . . and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him, and perhaps reach out for him and find him . . . ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’ . . . he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” [Acts 17:26 – 31.]
In short, all of us — including our rulers, judges, journalists, artists, academics, entertainers, professionals and other leaders in the community — are created and sustained by God, and are therefore his children and servants. Thus, we all have a duty to surrender to him, and “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with . . . God,” serving him as disciples by how we live, work, think, teach, rule and lead in the community. [Micah 6:8.]
Indeed, when Paul stood as a prisoner before Felix, a Roman governor, he boldly spoke to him about “faith in Christ Jesus . . . righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.” [Acts 25:24 – 27; Cf. Heb. 6:1 – 2 & Rev. 20:11 – 15.]
Felix did not welcome Paul’s message. And, over the long haul of history, the truth that we are all servants of God who will one day account for our service has usually been less than welcome in halls of wealth, influence and power. For, power and wealth tempt us to ignore our duty to God, and resort to arrogance, to abuse of the powerless, and to wicked schemes backed up by corrupt courts or even violence. [Cf. Deut. 8:10 – 20.] Thus, the bitter wisdom in the street-word: “folly-tricks.”
Amos sharply points out the resulting challenge to the people of God. First, speaking to a corrupt elite, he cries out:
You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground . . . you hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth . . . you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil. [Amos 5:7 – 13.]
On the other hand — magnificently — he declares:
Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared — who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken — who can but prophesy? [Amos 3:7 – 8.]
Thus, we see a sharp clash between that prudent fear that counsels silence in an evil day and the call to speak with the lion’s roar of God’s voice into a sin-sick world dominated by wicked, powerful elites.
But, true courage is to do our duty in the face of danger. As Jesus put it:
I tell you . . . do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more . . . Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell . . . . [W]hoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels. [Luke 12:4 – 9, cf. 11 - 12.]
Clearly, then, the call to discipleship is a call to lead our communities in repentance, renewal and reformation under Christ. But, how?
Again, David is a good model. As we noted above: “When he came on the scene, his nation was desperately trying to cling to its land in the face of invasion and hardship. Then, almost out of nowhere, he leaps onto the stage of history, first as a young musician soothing the troubled mind of a sad king; then as an anointed warrior defeating Goliath and leading the armies of Israel to victory; then as a rising, but controversial, national leader; finally as the greatest king — but One — of Israel.”
In short, the rise of a new generation of community leadership can transform the fortunes of a whole nation. For instance, when David — clearly too young to be called up for service — was sent with provisions to his big brothers in the army, he heard and responded to the challenge of Goliath, resisting the ridicule of his eldest brother. Soon, he was taken to King Saul.
“Let no-one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
“You are not able . . . you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” [1 Samuel 17:32 – 33.]
Clearly, Saul, who had been chosen by Israel “to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” [1 Sam. 8:20], failed to see that God was raising up an even mightier warrior than Goliath — David.
Due to his insecurity, popularity seeking, disobedience and fear, Saul had lost his vision and faith to lead. [1 Sam. 13:1 – 15 & 15:1 – 31.] Then, when David triumphed over the giant and rapidly became a successful general and a popular hero, Saul jealously sought to protect his status and privileges, even in the absence of performance. Therefore, he sought David’s life.
So David fled, ending up in the cave of Adullam in the desert. There, “those who were in distress or debt, or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader.” [1 Sam. 22:2.] As the Psalms record, this leadership was based on his walk with God, and so, at each step he prayerfully and passionately sought God’s wisdom and guidance. [Cf. Joshua 1:1 – 9, Deut. 17:18 – 20, and Psalm 1.] Thus, under tested godly leadership, a circle of desperate men gained experience, skill, success and exposure, thus becoming a new generation of leaders that carried their nation on to its finest hour.
Sadly, Saul soon added to his sins by slaughtering the priests at Nob for supporting David, over the protest of his own officials. Abiathar, son of the High Priest, however, escaped and joined David. Later, Jonathan, the crown prince, came to David at his hiding-place and magnificently encouraged him: “You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” [23:16 – 17.] Ultimately, after David had twice spared his life, Saul declared: “May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph.” [26:25.] Which, he did.
So, step by painful step, David rose to national leadership, though not without stumbles along the way. [Psalm 37: 23 & 24.] For instance, soon after Saul’s declaration, in fear, he fled to his enemies the Philistines and lived a life of deceit and raiding among them, for sixteen months. In doing this, he was only saved from being required to fight against his own nation by the intervention of the Lords of the Philistines. And, in his mid-life years, idleness led to adultery and veiled murder to cover it up, severely damaging his moral authority as a leader of the nation. This loss of legitimacy led to scandal and strife, paving the way for rebellion by ill-disciplined princes and civil war. But, by God’s grace, David was able to take the time to prepare Bathsheba’s second son, Solomon, to consolidate his achievements.
In short, David emerged through national crisis, which created a desperate groping for a way out. In the midst of danger and panic, he responded with faith, vision and courageous initiative: godly leadership. The initial breakthrough then led to greater opportunities as the King put him in a position of command. Success led to popularity, which triggered sinful jealousy and persecution. When he had to flee, desperate men came to him and, under his leadership, became the core of a movement of national renewal, that is reformation. Then, David almost dropped the ball: his own sins and neglect of his sons were only redeemed by his second chance, with Solomon, who led the generation of consolidation.
If we are to become such a David Generation in the Caribbean, we must learn God’s strategy: first, he opens the door to renewal and reformation through the chaos and crisis caused by the sins and selfishness of a Saul Generation.
Secondly, in the midst of national failure, there are Davids God is raising up: people of faith and vision, who respond to roaring Goliaths with godly courage and initiatives that open doors to unexpected breakthroughs.
I am convinced that there are many such Davids across our region today, for the same Spirit who empowered David is now poured out on all nations through Christ, giving us access to the power that raised Jesus from the dead. [Ephesians 1:17 – 23.]
In short, we who have given ourselves to God through Christ are — potentially — a David Generation. Therefore, let us be diligent to build up our skills and knowledge, and to seek a vision from God that creates breakthroughs in the midst of crises: in the family, church, school, campus, business, arts, media, civil service, community and government. Through such breakthroughs, we can lead our nations, under God, into renewal and reformation in our time.
As we rise to national leadership, we will make mistakes, but God orders the steps of good men and women and upholds us when we stumble, lest we be utterly cast down. But, we must beware of self-indulgent sins that destroy legitimacy and open the door for self-centred opportunists to seize power and create chaos. And, we must carefully nurture the Solomon Generation: those who will consolidate what we achieve.
· Education and the media
· The arts
§ How could we become a David Generation in our time?
§ How would this fit with the fulness vision?