Don’t judge a book by its cover, goes the saying. Why? Because the outside may be flashy and alluring but what’s inside may be dreary, disturbing and even shocking. This is generally the case with most leaders whether they are in politics, business, religion or any other field.
The canvas of Indian politics has changed over the past few decades. There has been a significant shift in how the game of politics is played today. It has become a war of unpleasant words and is not limited to the assembly or parliament house, rather it has become a regular feature on social media, more so on Twitter.
The political war today is being waged with insulting words that demean and destroy. The politicians of yesteryears who would not shy away from standing face to face, extending genuine greetings to each other and be readily united by a common cause—the betterment of the people or the development of the nation—now shoot offensive one-liners at each other from behind their phones or laptops.
It’s no wonder then that when someone says something regardless of whether that is right or wrong, almost immediately dirt from the past is dug up and thrown at them and that too in the open for everyone else to know. What becomes quickly apparent and eventually appalling is the line-up of scathing personal attacks on one’s character. And this is happening not just in politics but in all spheres of human activity.
There is an ever-widening gap between words and works in our world and more so among the people we look up to—our leaders. The leaders are demanding certain ethical and moral standards of the other and point fingers at the mistakes of the opposition, whilst they themselves are sinking in the quagmire of corruption, exploitation and dishonest practices. Those who solely look at the charisma and prowess of the leaders on the outside, ultimately realise that on the inside they are just as manipulative and evil as everyone else.
At the end of the day, the populace who elect such leaders into office are the ones adversely impacted. The masses that elevate them to places of authority are desirous of installing in office those who have clean hands and a pure heart. But that is easier said than done since, at the very core, we all are fallen and broken people, battling sin and its evil influences and allowing wickedness to reign supreme in our lives.
There is an ever-widening gap between words and works in our world and more so among the people we look up to—our leaders. The leaders are demanding certain ethical and moral standards of the other and point fingers at the mistakes of the opposition, whilst they themselves are sinking in the quagmire of corruption, exploitation and dishonest practices.
Maintaining an innocent façade is human character and it is deep-seated and ineffaceable. Leaders in all areas of influence, whether in the corporate and business world or in Christian ministry, whether in politics or even at home, should be careful to note that this double life will sooner or later be exposed. Universally and unequivocally, leaders are being asked to step up and be authentic, to be role models and be those whose character reflects their words and actions. The key reminder for us today even as we see leaders jostle with each other for power and supremacy—Never judge anyone by their words alone, rather look at what’s on the inside and how that works itself on the outside.
Lead by example
Ultimately it is not about what one says, but how one lives that matters. Even during Jesus’ day there were leaders both in political and religious realm who would say one thing and do another. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious leaders of the day. Their role was to bring people closer to God and be in relationship with Him; however, they knowingly kept people away from God by burdening them with man-made rules and regulations. At every possible opportunity, they would show themselves to be better than everyone else. They would stand on the street corners and say long-winding prayers to be seen and heard by others (Mt 6:5, 7). They would announce their offerings to the temple treasury by blowing a trumpet and would intentionally disfigure their faces so people know that they’ve been fasting (Mt 6:2, 16).
Jesus, who looked beyond their external show of piety and saw the attitudes of their heart, had some stern words for them. He called them hypocrites (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 15:7; 22:18; 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; Mark 7:6; Luke 12:56; 13:15) and whitewashed tombs (Mathew 23:27) and that is what they truly were—clean on the outside, but rotten on the inside. Even the political leaders of that day such as Pilate and Herod would seek to wriggle their way out of facing and admitting the Truth about Jesus. Jesus would urge people back then and even us today not to be like them. To Jesus, their words and works on the outside had to emanate from a humble, cleansed and purified heart before God. The character of the inner man mattered to Jesus. The truth is that only an impeccable and blameless character brings about pure motives of the heart and wholesome words of the mouth. Attaining such a renewed nature in and of ourselves is impossible. One has to depend on God and pursue it wholeheartedly.
So, we need to constantly ask the question as to how God-fearing leaders ought to conduct themselves. A further question is how one can identify authentic leaders who please God and are favourable to people.
The one who fears God would be vary of sinning against Him and would wilfully choose to follow his commands. A reverent fear acknowledges that God is supreme and in control over all things. Such a deep-seated fear and awe of God brings wisdom (Ps 111:10) and enables the right conduct in one’s life.
Leaders should always be mindful that they are ultimately accountable to God and would be standing before Him one day.
Leaders should always be mindful that they are ultimately accountable to God and would be standing before Him one day, giving an account for their words and actions. Nothing they do is hidden from His sight. So one should always walk circumspectly in light of that impending divine judgement.
Demonstrate authentic servanthood
True servanthood is rooted in humility prompting one to stoop down and serve others, rather than desiring to be served. This pattern exemplified by Jesus when he washed his disciple’s feet (Jn 13:1–17), shows us that an authentic leader always seeks the true welfare of his followers.
If you are a leader, subjugate yourself to the Almighty God. When you walk rightly before God, you will never need to bow down before men. Let the war of words become a flood of love.