This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.
This past week, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned, his departure from office effective once an internal party election can select a new leader – a process expected to take place over the course of the summer.
But it was not the bald fact of his resignation that has attracted so much global attention as much as the factors leading up to it.
At the center of this political controversy and Johnson’s downfall is “Partygate.” During the first grim peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister went on national TV goading — at times threatening or desperately pleading with — British citizens to sacrifice even their most important daily routines and stay home for the sake of everyone to help save lives.
But, privately, during the lockdown, the actions of Boris and his inner circle in government signaled that rules for the masses do not apply to the powerful. In late 2020, images emerged of the Prime Minister raising his glass and toasting his friends at 10 Downing Street while the rest of the country patiently suffered.
As is too often discovered, those who make the rules appear to have no obligation to follow and uphold the rules like everyone else.
Predictably, people were outraged with their government leaders’ tone deafness and abuse of power and privilege. To make matters worse, when confronted by Parliament and the press, Boris denied, lied, and deflected.
After a spirited and very moving annual Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, held on June 30, members of his cabinet were deeply touched and convicted by the preaching of Rev. Les Isaac’s (founder and CEO of Ascension Trust and founder of Street Pastors) message on Jesus’s servant leadership. In the aftermath of this Prayer Breakfast, dozens of Johnson’s cabinet ministers resigned their posts, thus pressuring the Prime Minister to do the same.
Rev. Isaac’s sermon shined a spotlight on the humility, people-first, sacrificial servant leadership of Jesus. He didn’t focus on the Prime Minister’s scandals, but he urged the 700 MPs and clergy attending the Prayer Breakfast to see their leadership as a platform to serve their constituents and not themselves.
Our current focus on the words of the 8th-century BC prophets of the Old Testament reminds us that human nature has hardly evolved, that power in the hands of unprincipled leaders is nearly always toxic, then same as now.
No wonder Amos challenged the bankrupt leaders of Israel: But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). The pride and arrogance of Jacob were abhorrent to the Lord (Amos 6:8).
Micah, Amos’s contemporary, chastised Israel’s abusive leaders who abhor justice and pervert all equity (Micah 3:9).
In worship this Sunday, we hear the Lord lamenting how those in power trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land (Amos 8:4).
Twenty-first-century leaders too often fail to “practice what they preach” the same as those of the eighth century BC, nearly 3,000 years ago. But Jesus, the ultimate servant leader, showed the way. He did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, and taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death of a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
As followers of Jesus, we want more than ever to conform our lives to Jesus’ vision of greatness through humility: whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be servant of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).
The health and effectiveness of our institutions (home, church, and government) depend on leaders who lead like Jesus.
See you Sunday,
Pastor Ray Hylton