In Whom We Trust?!
The night when President Clinton addressed the nation and admitted his inappropriate sexual behavior was the night when my wife and I had a house-warming party in our new home.
While the President was speaking, I was discussing an upcoming conference on English-speaking ministries among Chinese churches with a co-worker. She was totally uninterested in what the President had to say because she had already written him off. For myself, since January, when the rumor and allegations had broken out, I had found it increasingly difficult to listen to Clinton. We just carried on our conversation while most of the guests listened to his speech.
Afterwards, we discussed the speech and our feelings on the whole affair.
No doubt Clinton has done a lot of good for America during his six years in office. Obviously he is a highly intelligent and likable person. However, I am grieved by the fact that he can lie so convincingly and be so willing to say whatever is necessary to save his neck. He appears to be willing to betray the trust his country, his friends and his very own family had in him for his own personal interests.
I can understand why a leader sometimes has to say things that he knows are not totally accurate or true. For example, on the same weekend when Clinton gave his speech, President Yeltsin of Russia insisted emphatically that the ruble would not be devalued. Yeltsin made his assertion on Friday. On the following Monday, the ruble dropped 34% of its value against the U.S. dollar. Yet nobody accused Yeltsin of being a liar. Why? It is because he did not do this for his own personal interests. In fact, he could have been accused of, and rightly so I might add, of recklessness, incompetence and irresponsibility if he had let leak out that the ruble would be devalued.
For President Clinton to lie so blatantly, emphatically and matter-of-factly in order to save his own position, reputation or interest is a very disappointing thing to witness.
On the positive side, there is much for Christians to learn from the events of these past months, especially in the area of leadership and qualifications of leaders.
It is helpful to be reminded of what Paul has to say. He writes that "it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2).
Church leaders, no matter whether they are ordained, approved, appointed, called or elected, are given a trust. This trust, even though bestowed upon them through human instruments and institutions, ultimately comes from God. Hence leaders are accountable not only to themselves, but also to God and to those who have placed their trust in them.
Paul writes that those who are given a trust must prove faithful, in the sense of being reliable, dependable and trustworthy. An unreliable leader serves no better purpose than an unreliable watch or car. If the words of a leader cannot be trusted, the leader himself cannot be trusted. If a leader cannot be trusted, then he cannot lead effectively.
For me, the catchword for a Christian leader is integrity. A leader is not in it for his own benefit. He does not have his own personal agenda. He is committed to doing his best to fulfill the trust, mission and responsibility that are placed upon him. If a Christian leader should place his personal interests before the interests of his church and organization, and should protect his own interests at all costs, including outright deception and lying, he does not deserve to be in that position.
In I Peter 5:3, Peter teaches that leaders should not lord over those entrusted to their care, but instead be role models to those whom they seek to serve. Let us not only use this verse to measure and criticize our secular leaders, but also as a standard for ourselves.
To be fair, it is tough to be a leader. Their lives are subject to every kind of scrutiny and criticism. Their labor of love is often taken for granted. Their achievement is seldom mentioned or appreciated. Besides, their family members are often hurt, humiliated, embarrassed and even embittered. We should examine our hearts to see if there is anything we can do to encourage our leaders and to show them our appreciation.
We cannot and do not expect our leaders to be perfect. But it would be very refreshing to see them give credit to others in times of success, acknowledge their blunders, ask for forgiveness for their moral transgressions and graciously step down when their period of effective leadership is over.
It may be too much to expect of our leaders. But I do believe in Someone who majors in doing the impossible.