Commentary by Rev. Michael VandenBerg
As I write this column, we are but a day away from the political primaries. The question that continually comes to mind is, “Where is the character factor in our political process?” It used to be that when a person of character would emerge in the political arena, people would flock to them, being drawn to them as if by some inexplicable force. People could see the character qualities clearly and distinctly and they weren’t hidden behind a strategy of do anything to win.
There is something powerful in the truth that we, in our hectic over-stimulated culture, miss these days. We complain that bad behavior is all to rampant, then rant and rave at our neighbor. We want the death and dying to stop in our neighborhoods, but then refuse to stand with those who are working to make that happen. We want a more civil election cycle, but then focus our conversations on the sensational and dramatic.
When Jesus spoke, the comment that many of his day made was that this was unlike any leader they had ever known. He spoke with such authority and knowing. He spoke the truth, in love and then was ready to welcome again those who heard and responded. He could shake up the lowliest of followers and the greatest of rulers, all by never wavering from the truth he came to speak.
The other part of his character that was unmistakable was that his very life was a testament to his message and vice versa. Someone whose message is consistent with their behavior will always emerge as a true leader.
Now don’t get me wrong. Many disliked his message, but they could always see he was true to it. Those who had systems to protect, positions to insulate from the winds of change, voices that sought to exploit rather than raise up saw Jesus as a threat to be expunged. But to those who were looking for hope, desiring the very best, his message and life came as a cup of cold water on a hot day.
Perhaps the best first step in reclaiming character in our leaders today is not in decrying their message or behavior, but in ourselves being the best example of character we can be and expecting and even demanding it from our leaders. Let’s expect from our leaders character that we both hope for and deserve. Let’s expect leaders to be people who bridge the gaps and bring us together and not drive us apart by vilifying our fellow citizens.