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Janie B. Cheaney: When leaders lead, others follow


WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney: When leaders lead, others follow

When leaders fail to step up to challenges, everyone does what’s right in his own eyes

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NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, April 26th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next: World commentator Janie B. Cheaney on real leadership–and how the fate of a nation depends upon it.

JANIE CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: When leaders lead, victory is possible. Without leadership, failure is assured.

Deborah’s song, in Judges chapter 5, is all about victory. Here’s how it begins:

“That leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!”

Deborah goes on to recall how her countrymen, oppressed by their Canaanite enemies, cowered in their homes and slinked down the byways. Until she arose—“a mother in Israel.” Guided by the Lord, Deborah called Barak to marshal ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun. They gathered at Mt. Tabor and there, with the strength of the Lord, they routed their enemies. With victory in the air, more men of Israel joined the fight, and even Jael, the wife of Heber followed through with a tent peg when the enemy commander took refuge in her tent.

When leaders lead, the people volunteer. But when leaders don’t lead, everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and things fall apart. Doing what is right in one’s own eyes is the highest virtue of western society now, and so-called leadership flatters that conceit.

Most office-holders are not leaders; they are managers. What they manage is the status quo, or their constituents’ demands, or their own reputation, or all three. A typical U. S. President manages his reelection or, in a second term, his legacy. A typical bureaucrat manages the viability of his job. Without leadership, though, what they ultimately manage is failure.

The book of Judges is a record of failure, seasoned with occasional success. That’s the theme from the beginning, where the tribe of Judah failed to drive the Canaanites out of Jerusalem. Manasseh failed, Ephraim failed, Zebulun and Asher failed, and so on. Failure led to apostasy, apostasy to bondage and oppression, oppression to crying out to the Lord. In response, the Lord raised up a Deborah, a Barak, a Gideon, a Jephthah. And the people volunteered.

Presidential candidates are usually not short of vision. They project their own ideals of American greatness on the political stage in bright colors, however impractical or improbable. You may remember one candidate who speculated that with his election the planet would begin to heal. They all know what they want; they are less clear on how to get it, beyond wish-casting and slamming their opponents.

A true leader understands not only the goals, but also the obstacles. A leader will see not just the vision, but also the pitfalls on the way. Well after Deborah’s time, the prophet Samuel led a revival in Israel by first telling the people to put away their foreign gods and idols (I Sam. 7:3). Our diverse culture has many foreign gods and idols to put away, but a leader should recognize the greatest dangers to ordered society, like class envy, racial strife, and family breakdown, and direct our vision away from them. When leaders lead, the people volunteer.

Any leaders out there?

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

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