The condemnation of those in authority is a pervasive trend. If we are to believe reigning narratives, every politician is entirely self-centered, officials and civil servants are generally corrupt, the security forces exist to snoop unnecessarily and let’s not even mention the bankers. This tendency to be cynical with regard to leaders reflects, I think, the resistance of our individualistic culture to the value of being a disciple.
In the final year of a Politics undergraduate degree, I could be frequently heard denouncing any allegiance to “actual politics”. Although I loved the content of my course, I still felt compelled to defend against the possibility of being associated with the group of people we entrust to lead the United Kingdom.
In a clear demonstration of the Lord’s sense of humour, eight weeks after graduation I found myself in the heart of “actual” British politics in Westminster. This was part of the CARE Leadership Programme which enabled me to spend four days a week working in the office of a Member of Parliament. With the opportunity to observe a multitude of public figures in positions of political leadership, I was reminded of the inevitable cost it brings.
By definition, a position of leadership involves a degree of vulnerability. It requires someone to stand for something, to align with an institution, a set of ideas or principles. With this comes an exposure to those who disagree with whatever you have chosen to represent and inevitably criticism ensues. Having previously allowed my view to be coloured by the prevailing scepticism – I realised that I had ignored the truth that behind every representative is a person; an individual of inestimable worth, an image bearer of my God.
I was grateful during my year on CARE’s Leadership Programme to be convicted by the Lord on my attitude towards those in political authority over us. To be challenged to be someone who seeks to honour rather than condemn. You see, disparaging criticism is easy; respect and dialogue, even if we vehemently disagree on some matter, is much more difficult.
As we seek to be discipled by Jesus, I believe there is much we have to give to a society losing faith in the possibility of good leaders.
This reflection on authority was one of a multitude of lessons I learnt during my year on CARE’s Leadership Programme. If you are a recent or soon to be graduate and are interested in life in the public square, check out CARE’s Programme, I cannot recommend it highly enough! Deadline for the 2016/17 applications is just around the corner: Monday 16 November.