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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Horse Play”

Princess Celestia has gotten a lot of flak over the years if you’ve been in the fan community. Often thought of as being useless, lazy, incompetent, or even an epic troll in terms of being a leader of Equestria, most of her good qualities come from the “Positive Void” rather than ever seeing her do anything on screen. Yet, as episodes like this show, when push comes to shove she can be a good, prudent, and fast-thinking leader with only minutes to spare…even if the crisis in question is simply salvaging a play.

Leadership is ultimately a necessity for human society. All communities are made up of varieties of individuals who have an assortment of proficiencies in certain talents or spheres of influence–many of whom are intelligent or knowledgeable in one or many fields. Even in the best of situations, if all of these individuals tried to act independently toward a common goal there would be confusion, disorganization, and a lot of stepping on each other’s toes. In worse situations, there would also be bickering, squabbling, and infighting. And in a crisis, all of those things would be potentially fatal. Simply put, people need those in positions of leadership if only to give a voice that all can march to or a common direction to follow, like a band leader or a conductor. Often it means much more than that–for the same individual to be the one who makes big decisions on behalf of others or takes charge in times of crisis as well. And for Christian leaders, it means even more as they usually have charge of preaching the Gospel and/or directing the community in their interpretation of the Bible and godly living.

It’s a bit corny and overused thanks to things like Spider-Man, but it’s also true: the more power and authority a position has, the greater the responsibility to maintain it (James 3:1). Since Christians believe their spiritual leaders have responsibility for the spiritual well-being of their community, that entails a very special level of responsibility. In the days of the Bible, the leaders were seen as representatives of the people as a whole and, therefore, were especially culpable for both their virtue and vice. It was, after all, their duty and charge to direct the people responsibly. And as such, primary punishment was always reserved for them when they neglected their people (Isaiah 10:1-10; Matthew 18:6), and they had a special obligation to pursue sound judgment and righteousness (Proverbs 11:14, 29:12).

Indeed, history is rife with examples of religious leaders who led peoples, communities, and sometimes entire nations astray with their interpretations of their religions, whether their interpretations were accidental or motivated by personal greed and self-interest. Yet even for the more honest and forthright among us, there probably aren’t many who envy having that position when they consider the responsibility and diligence it requires. Even so, there will likely be at least a handful of times in our lives in which all of us will be offered the chance, voluntarily or involuntarily, to take charge of a small situation. And for the Christian, that means being as responsible in the small matters as the large ones.

So what makes a good leader of Christian values?

1. A good leader consults the Lord.

One common theme of the good leaders in the Bible is that they always had recourse to the Lord; good times and bad. When in times of distress they cried out to him, when in times of fear and despair they prayed to him, and when in times of joy and plenty they praised him. David’s entries in the Book of Psalms are an excellent example of this. He may have been one of the greatest kings of the Old Testament but his life was anything but peaceful and worry-free. Yet no matter the time or the season, he didn’t forget the Lord and always turned to him no matter what he was feeling. Many leaders in the Bible, just like those in real life, frequently had to choose the best option out of several with no guarantee of success even then. Recognizing the limits of human wisdom as well as the uncertainty of the unknown, committing themselves, their people, and their nations to God was always a first and foremost step.

2. A good leader doesn’t rule in a vacuum.

Any leader can give a directive or an order for other people to follow, but a wise leader recognizes their own limitations and delegates responsibility to people of trust. They identify who are good and valuable people in their service who have a good talent and they appoint them to do what they’re best at; making the best use of everyone’s talents and not weighing themselves down with either the exhaustion of being overburdened or the overbearingness of micromanagement.  As a Biblical example, consider King Solomon. He is known as the wisest mortal man of all time who no one on Earth could match. And yet, even he had counselors in his service (1 Kings 12:6). Likewise, in the New Testament, Jesus Himself designated twelve apostles above the rest of his disciples to act in positions of leadership, and they themselves later designated others to handle the normal day-to-day affairs in the Church community so they could devote themselves to preaching the Gospel (Acts 6:1-7). No one knows everything or is a pro at everything, or has the luxury of the time and energy to direct everything. One of the best things a leader might do with people under their charge is look for who knows best about A or B among them and consult them accordingly, and be humble enough to accept their help. “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” (Proverbs 11:14)

3. A good leader seeks the good of others over himself or herself.

In this episode, Twilight Sparkle may have created her play out of a desire to give Princess Celestia a chance to be a star, but Celestia herself realized it was more important for everyone involved to make the play a success. In the same way, all good leaders seek the success of those under their charge as a whole, while poor ones use leadership as an excuse for their own glory. In the Bible, some of the worst rulers ultimately stemmed from ones who cared little about their people compared to their own glory. There was the Pharaoh of Egypt in the Old Testament, who let misery and one plague after another afflict his people without care for their suffering due to the pride and obstinance of his position…until the last one finally struck him personally as well. There was Jeroboam, the first ruler of the northern kingdom of the divided Israel, who sought to preserve himself by inducing his nation to abandon the Lord and serve his idols, and in the end destroyed both his own house as well as Israel with him.  And then there were the latter day rulers of Judah, who became so oppressive and corrupt that eventually the Lord declared their doom through the prophets (Ezekiel 34:1-10). By comparison, Lord Jesus Himself, the King of Kings, set an example by putting the good of everyone ahead of Himself. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

4. A good leader makes decisions that are right, not popular.

While it’s generally a good rule of thumb for any leader to make decisions on what is going to bring the most amount of benefit to the most people under their leadership, there comes times…possibly many times…in which a leader must use their position to enforce an unpopular decision in the name of the greater good. No one ever said doing the right thing would earn you praise or even make you popular. Going back to David, part of the reason he had such a tempestuous reign is because he was not terribly popular among all of his subjects. After spending years as a fugitive of his own country and the reigning monarch of the time, he became king at first only over the region of Judah for a period of seven years, and once he did become king of Israel he had to deal with two separate rebellions–one of them led by his own son. Pretty much every decision Moses made was hated by the Israelites, from the moment he made his first proclamation against Pharaoh which resulted in their workload being increased to their constant desires to return to Egypt while journeying to Sinai and the Promised Land to the multiple occasions of attempted revolt and rebellion during the 40 years in the desert. One need hardly mention just how unpopular Jesus was in His time; not just with the religious leaders but with many of His disciples (John 6:66). And yet all three of these individuals, especially Jesus, were considered to be some of the most upstanding and god-fearing men of the Bible along with the most sound judgment.

Finally, when it comes to spiritual leadership, many Christians have the privilege of “choice” in being able to pick which leader they are going to listen to and let influence them. Likewise, because of the special power and authority a religious leader wields, they have the ability to sway and direct people in many ways that more secular leaders cannot…as well as, if they so wish to, manipulate them. For that reason, even if we find ourselves always being a member of a “flock” and never taking a turn as a “shepherd”, it’s always a responsibility for everyone to choose carefully who they let lead them.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the example of Lord Jesus and the model He gave us to follow when seeking to be a leader. Whether I find myself in a position of leadership or following others, please grant that I will always consult you first and seek your glory, that I will always be humble enough to seek the help of others when necessary, that I will desire the good of others over myself, and that I will always make the right decision rather than the one that gets the most people to like me. And please grant me a discerning heart to do the same toward people I put my faith and trust in to lead me. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”