Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What does it mean to lead?

Today we read in Mark's gospel the first explanation given for why anyone would try to kill Jesus. In chapter 3, St. Mark tells us that after Jesus heals a man's crippled hand.

The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

This is a strange alliance, to say the least. Herod was installed by the Roman Empire and understood by all Jews to be a puppet a of the pagans. This alliance of Pharisees and was based solely on the common threat to their power, Jesus.

Here we seen the difference between power and authority. Herod's authority is grounded in force and fear.  People do as he commands not out of love or respect but because the are afraid not to.

In Jesus we see the model for true leadership.  As St. Mark already told us in chapter 1,

Jesus taught them like one with authority (exousia). 

Does Jesus have power? Of course, more power than anyone could imagine, but he does not use it to compel obedience. People listen to his words and recognize the authority in them.  People choose to follow.

There are those who would argue that America needs to conquer our enemies by instilling fear, a "Don't mess with us" foreign policy.  History shows that that kind of leadership always fails. It can work for a time, but only a brief time. Eventually people overcome their fear.

Jesus teaches. He convinces not coerces people to follow his lead. And 2000 years later people are still following him because they are convinced. He is the perfect model of leadership.