It’s been a tough week in German politics. Chancellor Angela Merkel was supposed to be heading Italy but the trip was cancelled at the last minute. Matters nearer to home needed addressing.
The Federal President, Christian Wulff, Merkel’s choice for the role, was forced into resigning his position after a scandal concerning a home loan became public knowledge. According to the BBC, ‘German media say the crisis is unprecedented in post-war Germany.’
In the midst of the ongoing Eurozone financial crises, it is one more issue Merkel, Germany and Europe as a whole could do without.
And it serves as a timely reminder of the need for integrity in leadership – in politics and especially in the church.
There was a time in Israel’s history where its leaders were far from what they should have been. They talked the talk but failed to walk the walk. Perhaps they thought they would get away with their greed, avarice and stupidity. Perhaps they forgot that ultimately it wasn’t the people they were accountable to but God himself:
‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. (Ex 34)
God saw. God knew. God judged.
7 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. (Ex 34)
Such passages remind us that positions of leadership in the New Testament church come with great responsibility. Christian church leaders are called to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.
Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Tim 4v12)
And, like those leaders of God’s people in the Old Testament period, it is ultimately before God that Christian leaders will be held account.
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3v1)
Which brings us back to God’s promise to his people back in Ezekiel 34. Their leaders had failed, but God would not abandon his people. Instead he makes an amazing promise:
For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.” (Ez 34v11)
To which Jesus himself responds,
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10v14,15)
In Jesus, God himself cares for his people. He models true self-less leadership. He models true integrity. Church leaders – pastors, ministers, elders, vicars, bishops – are just under-shepherds. Let’s pray that our church leaders may know God’s grace as they seek to follow his lead.