If there were to be a news headline for the book of Judges, perhaps it would read, “Human Authority Fallible.” Over the past twenty years, headlines have indicted many a religious leader for sexual misconduct, power plays, and greed. But none of this is new.
In the book of Judges, the Israelites have again strayed away from God in pursuit of idols. So God provides the nation with judges (or leaders) to rescue them from invasion and help keep them on track. But one judge after the next gives in to the whims of the world—making vows that end in human sacrifice (at least that isn’t a recent headline!), being seduced into giving up secrets to the enemy, and many other problems.
What do all of these have in common?—the imperfection of human leadership, because of the waywardness of humankind. Calvin called it total depravity. I like to think of it as living into our broken nature. It is our problem as much today as it was then. We think we know what is best, so we act out of our personal inclinations: be it power, greed, lust, pride, money, etc.
And when we forget our first love—God, and incline our lives toward anything in the place of God, we fall. But in the case of leadership, it is never a personal fall; it is a corporate fall. Organizations, nations, kingdoms have fallen because of the fallibility of leaders.
Well, this would all seem hopeless, except that Jesus seemed to make it work with totally fallible disciples. Peter denied Jesus three times in the midst of Jesus’ trial and execution. Thomas said to Jesus’ face that he wouldn’t believe he was resurrected unless he could stick his hand in the wound in his side—gross! And James and John spent time petitioning to sit next to Jesus in heaven. Sounds like a school cafeteria squabble…and also every church that has ever existed.
But what does Jesus do with it? He works with them. He loves them. He teaches them. Jesus connects to the totally fallible, problematic, utterly questionable disciples. In fact, he chose them! The Judges in the Old Testament led Israel to prevent being overtaken by enemies, even though they were fallible. The Apostles in the New Testament helped set up the early church after Jesus’ death, even though they were fallible.
I think the takeaway is that, yes, God can still use fallible leaders—but only when they have the humility to admit their own waywardness and seek out accountabilities to combat their pride.
What is your heart inclination? What distracts you from loving God or seeing God’s love in your life? In other words, what area of your life do you feel has to be under your control (money, sex, relationships, work, etc)?
What accountabilities do you need in your life to keep you pointed toward God? Who helps keep you humble in your pride, and encourages you in your weakness? Spend some time in prayer this week about accountabilities in your own life.