I got to hear former Attorney General John Ashcroft speak last night at a fundraiser for a local ministry. It was a privilege to hear a man who has served our country well speak. He was not the most polished speaker I have ever heard, but he was good. He told the story of how 9/11 unfolded for him, and spoke highly of President Bush and of the honor it was to serve under him. Most moving of all, was a story of how his dying father had prayed for him the morning he was to be sworn into the senate for the first time.
And he spoke of leadership, governance and Jesus. I appreciated his take on the power (or lack thereof) of government. He says that governance cannot elicit that which is the highest and best out of any of us, it can only legislate based on the lowest and least. In other words, governance passes laws proscribing minimally accepted behaviors. In other words, governance can tell you to at least not kill, it cannot command you to devote yourself to saving lives. It can tell you not to steal, it cannot make you productive.
To elicit that which is highest and best, he says we need leadership. Governance operates via mandates and imposition, whereas leadership operates via modeling and inspiration. It is this modeling and inspiration which elicits that which is the highest and best out of us.
I thought that was tremendous. And he commended the ministry for which he was speaking for their role in providing leadership which calls out the highest and best in our young people. And truly they do. And he pointed to the fact ultimate example of modeling and inspiration, who is Jesus. Jesus is the model for this kind of leadership.
But, and you knew a but was coming, didn't you? I walked away ultimately dissatisfied. Yes, I know Mr. Ashcroft is a politician and can't help speaking as a politician. He is not a theologian or a pastor, so I shouldn't expect him to understand and say the things a theologian or a pastor might say.
However, it doesn't take a theologian or a pastor to know that portraying Jesus as a mere example or model obscures the point of who Jesus is. First and foremost, Jesus is King, Jesus is Redeemer, Jesus is Lord. Jesus doesn't call us to our highest and best, He calls us to Himself.
And yeah I know I'm griping when I probably shouldn't be but we really need to get over this tendency we have of making Jesus a mascot for our cause or agenda. And please don't interpret that comment as a potshot at Republicans or the right, just because I'm speaking of John Ashcroft. This Jesus-as-mascot-for-my-agenda is an omni-partisan thing. It seems to me that for most people, if they have a cause, they'll put their jersey on Jesus.
So again, I hate to seem disrespectful to Mr. Ashcroft. He has served our country well and deserves our praise and thanks. And his insights on the differences between governance and leadership were helpful and well taken. But when we speak of Jesus, let's not speak of Him as if He is a means to some other end, even an end as noble as helping kids do their best. Let's always remember that He is the end.