Choosing Leaders by Their Fruits
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has always captivated me. It is completely counter-cultural.
In Matthew chapters 5 through 7, we see some of the most compelling, challenging and inspiring guidance for how Christ wants us to live and lead. I am always challenged by Jesus’ words in this sermon, but am also encouraged when considering the humble yet bold life and leadership of Jesus. He practiced what he preached. As a Christ-follower, and as a leader, I desire to live out the values of this sermon in an increasing way each day.
This is on my mind, as I recently finished reading Dr. John R.W. Stott’s classic book The Message of The Sermon on the Mount (InterVarsity Press, 1978). I highly recommend his powerful exegesis. In reading it, I was once again struck by the beautiful, compelling and radical nature of Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount. He calls his followers to think higher and live differently.
I’m convinced that we should choose not only leaders in ministry, but also in public life, who embrace Sermon on the Mount values.
Jesus tells us that we will know the veracity of one’s beliefs by their fruits of their life. When we choose leaders wisely, we will see the sort of fruit in their lives that the Apostle Paul commended to the Galatians: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23) Such fruit isn’t created by sheer willpower or determination. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
While the Sermon on the Mount is aimed at Christ’s followers, I believe that it is also a wise standard for evaluating leaders for our nation today. Our governmental leaders have unique power to influence our nation. Throughout Scripture, particularly in the examples of the kings of ancient Israel, we clearly see how leaders powerfully point a nation towards, or away from, God’s path.
Having spent the first part of my career as an adviser to a U.S. Senator and to a U.S. Representative, I passionately believe in Christian engagement in politics and public policy. It’s not only our civic duty; it’s also critical to ensuring good governance for our nation and world. For example, the next edition of Outcomes will focus on “freedom” and explore trends in public policy and the courts impacting religious liberty. Responding to those trends requires our active engagement and involvement.
However, in the midst of the heat and furor of a U.S. presidential campaign, I encourage all of us to revisit and reread the Sermon on the Mount. Determining correct public policy stances in a leader is vitally important, but that is only a starting point for wisely choosing a leader. Character runs much deeper. Do the life and words of a leader reflect the spirit of humility, peacemaking, mercy, prayerfulness, honesty, fidelity and righteousness which Christ demands in this sermon? What is the fruit of a leader’s life? Is that leader ‘salt and light’ in the way Jesus commends in Matthew 5: 13-14?
When it comes to choosing leaders, we Christ followers must avoid an ends justify means approach. We must not sacrifice principle on the altar of expediency. Jesus calls us to pursue a radically different path. Let us consider the fruits of leaders’ lives, so we can wisely select those who will guide our nation, or our organizations.
Questions for consideration:
- Do I exhibit Sermon on the Mount values as a leader?
- What fruits would my closest observers say are evident in my life?
- Do I choose leaders according to the fruits evident in their lives?
- How would choosing Sermon on the Mount leaders impact our nation?
W. Scott Brown is vice president of leadership experiences and resources for Christian Leadership Alliance. He is also editor of Outcomes magazine, and Outcomes Online. He holds a B.S. from Liberty University, a M.A. in communications: journalism/public affairs from The American University, and a M.A. in liberal arts from St. John’s College.
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