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22 & 23 July 2023 (Pastoral Page) WHEN LEADERS LET US DOWN

By Ps Lim Wei-en

What a couple of weeks it’s been in the local political scene!

It started in early July when two of our ministers were scrutinized over the way they went about renting colonial bungalows at Ridout Road for their personal use. Last week, the Transport Minister was arrested by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau over a graft probe, and placed on a leave of absence. Then, early this week, two MPs resigned from parliament and the ruling party after it was revealed that they had an affair. On that same day, it was reported that two senior members from an opposition party, including one MP, were caught on video having an inappropriate exchange. These two senior members subsequently resigned from their party.

In my social circles, there have been a range of responses to these incidents. Some could not care less as the actions of these leaders (so it would seem) do not affect their day-to-day lives. Others have been outraged by the misuse and abuse of power vested on these elected leaders. Still others are deeply disappointed because they had known these leaders to be persons of character who had cared for the residents of their constituencies and served the needs of the nation responsibly, and these actions felt like a betrayal of trust.

Personally, I was quite affected by some of these incidents, not least because the Transport Minister in question is also the MP of the West Coast Division of West Coast GRC, of which our church building (and my home) is a part; and because one of the MPs who resigned is a professing Christian who has been an encouragement to the Christian community in the past. Having reflected on my and others’ responses to these incidents, I would like to suggest the following ways Christians can respond when leaders (political or otherwise) let us down.

Pray for Them.

"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

When we are let down, the first thing we can do is to intercede for “all those in authority.” We can pray for the leaders who have done wrong, asking God to bring about godly sorrow in them that leads to repentance and eventually, salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). We can pray for the comfort of the Holy Spirit and a compassionate community to surround them even as they make restitution for the wrongs done. We can pray for them to be eventually forgiven and restored, that they may use the gifts and experiences they have been given to serve others once again, with purity and integrity of heart.

Examine Ourselves.

“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither." (C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity”)

When we are let down, the second thing we can do is to search ourselves or, better, allow God to search us (Psalm 139:23-24). When leaders fail, it is easy to jump on the bandwagon of popular opinion and add to the contempt being directed towards them. However, the publicness of their failure should serve to remind us that even the best of us is fallible – indeed, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Those of us in leadership positions or who aspire to be in those positions must take heed of whether we have given in to any of the seductions that come with power. Those of us who revel in the mistakes of others should beware the “Diabolical self” and consider how, but for the grace of God, we too would easily have taken the road those leaders took.

Renew our Trust in the Ultimate Leader.

“Do not put your trust in princes,

in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;

on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:3-5)

It is in human nature to put people, especially leaders, on pedestals. Like Israel who asked for a King (1 Sam. 8), we feel more assured when there are visible leaders we can place our trust in. However, the tendency to elevate any created thing or person over the Creator is idolatry, and God repeatedly warns us in Scripture against placing our trust in people. He does so for the simple fact that people are finite and there will come a day when “their plans come to nothing.” When leaders let us down, the third thing we can do is to recalibrate our trust, placing it all on our Ultimate Leader who will never let us down. Unlike earthly leaders, Jesus emptied himself of all heavenly privileges that could have been used to his advantage, washed the feet of his followers, and eventually gave his life in exchange for theirs. Because of this, he alone qualifies to be the One we place our full trust in. He is the hope for leaders who have failed and the healer for those whose have been wearied by such leadership.

When our leaders let us down, may we neither respond with nonchalance or judgementalism. Instead, let us be drawn to prayer, lifting these leaders, ourselves and our nation to the Lord. Above all, let us renew our trust in Christ, our Ultimate Leader, who never fails.

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