November 6, 2012

Voting for Nehemiah

I was fortunate enough to be asked to help my church put together a series on faith and politics this year ahead of the election. My pastor framed the lessons around the book of Nehemiah and the essential leadership lessons that he provides.

I can sum these lessons up with two concepts: credibility and competence.

With respect to credibility, Nehemiah was a stranger in a strange land, but had earned the trust of the empire. As the cup-bearer he had already lived his life in a way where he was trusted by others. Right along with this, when he heard from his own people about the sorry state of a homeland he had never known, they were willing to follow him as a leader to rebuild the city walls.

Nehemiah was trusted by both sides. Can you think of a leader today who lives their life in a way that both the Republicans and Democrats place the highest degree of trust in their word?

He was also aware that leadership means that you have to know what you’re doing. He delegated well, and avoided unnecessary distractions. He looked out for the welfare, short and long-run, of the workers. He knew full well that he wasn't just building a wall, he was rebuilding his nation.

I know that I want to vote for leaders who exemplify the combination of credibility and competence demonstrated by Nehemiah. Doing this is likely to mean that my votes will have to go to people who don’t share my views on every issue, presuming such a leader can be found.

My encouragement to students this year will be to pray that "Nehemiahs" emerge from our communities and that we will have the good sense and humility to vote for them when that time comes. And, to fix our government because of the degree to which it fails to respond meaningfully to the problems of our communities, we will all need to search within us to make sure that we are living lives of credibility. We also must develop our research and critical thinking skills so that we can show competence when our time to lead arises.

As my pastor said to our congregation, the government of the people, for the people, and by the people will look like the people. In terms of Matthew 7:5, we have to fix ourselves so we can see clearly to identify the specks out there that prevent positive governance. In other words, we can take stands on the issues with credibility once we've demonstrated that we can be trusted to practice what we preach.

To further explore these issues, you can listen to the podcasts for the God and Country series here.

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