What is your image of a leader? Is it a man in a black suit on his way to an important meeting? Or an activist organizing marches and rallies spreading the message for her cause? There are many different kinds of leaders, but the best ones have something in common, and it doesn’t have anything to do with their education or attire. Leaders answer the call, and continue to show up, regardless of their failings.
When we look at the Bible we see that time and again, God has chosen unlikely leaders. Would you have what it takes? What does God look for in a leader? You might be surprised…
Moses was a stuttering murderer (he killed an Egyptian guard who was beating an Israelite). That doesn’t look good on a resume. From a human standpoint, he seems like an unlikely candidate to lead God’s chosen people. He recognized this himself, and when God called him to lead his people out of Egypt, Moses said:
“Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:10-12 ESV)
Moses’ heritage and circumstances put him in the right position, but it was his willingness to trust in God, despite his own confidence or faults, that enabled him to be the leader that God needed at the time.
Sometimes it’s those very faults that help a leader to become the person that God can work through. Those stories teach us that it’s not the flaws that matter, but how we confront them and move forward.
In one of the most famous acts of repentance, King David pours out his heart to God and admits to his sins in Psalm 51:
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.”
Is God looking for someone who never makes mistakes? Or simply someone who admits and takes responsibility for those mistakes? A heart of repentance is one that God can work with. A good leader is able to use their failings as a lesson and realign themselves on an even deeper level with their mission.
Continuing to work hard despite our own mistakes is admirable, but being willing to love others despite their faults is something truly exceptional.
Jesus tells us to, “Love each other as I have loved you”(John 15:12, NIV).
In modern times, we might take for granted just how controversial a leader Jesus actually was in his own time. Not only did his company raise eyebrows—fishermen and prostitutes—but he defied Jewish laws and customs and preached a revolutionary new message.
Jesus was not swayed by the conventions of the time, or about what others might think of him. He saw everyone from God’s point of view, and that love was what drew people to him.
All this is easier said than done. It takes true determination to stick to a goal or uphold your values in the face of adversity.
When Father Moon heard the voice of God on an Easter Sunday at age 16, he was asked to accept an impossible mission. He wondered, “How can I do this? Why would you even give me a mission of such paramount importance?” (As a Peace Loving Global Citizen, 28)
When he reflected later on why God chose him, he thought it might have a lot to do with his stubborn nature:
“Anyone who follows the path of God must pursue his goal with his whole heart and total
dedication. It requires a steadfastness of purpose. I am stubborn by birth, so I have always had plenty of tenacity. I used this God-given tenacity to overcome difficulties and follow the way that was given to me.” (As a Peace Loving Global Citizen, 29)
It takes a certain kind of stubbornness to persevere when things get tough, to remember the calling that God has given and to stick with it against all odds. Great leaders don’t give up, even on the difficult days.
The Leader in You
Thankfully, God doesn’t ask us to be perfect. Our Heavenly Parent does not necessarily want the best public speaker or financial wizard, but a person who seeks to connect with His and Her heart, who can take responsibility, and who can be relied upon. There may be some days when even the most skilled leaders feel inadequate. You might be thinking, “What do I have to offer? Who am I to be put in this position?” But if you are willing to be there, to lean on God even in a time of doubt, then you have already exhibited one of the main qualities that God looks for in a leader: You showed up.