Like most Americans, I am disheartened by our elected officials in Washington, both Republican and Democrat. Time and time again these leaders seem to forget what life is like for everyday people. They have agendas they want to advance but forget the faces of those they represent. They are generals making wartime decisions, without connection to those on the front lines of the battle. This leaves people hopeless, struggling with stress, wounded by life’s hardship, without leaders who understand and advocate for them. Any general, that has zero connection with those on the front lines of the battle, squanders their opportunity to lead and harms a great many people. They may advance an agenda, but they are leading no one, because they have lost sight of names and faces.
Here’s what natural disasters can do. They remind us that the human spirit is delicate and people are precious. They remind us that everyone longs for leaders who understand the struggle to simply survive and work tirelessly to find solutions. They remind us that working together is our only hope of restoration, regardless of our differences. And while all of us have core beliefs, we are strongest when we love one another, when we serve one another, and when we put others first and ourselves last. While my heart breaks for those living through the nightmare of natural disasters, I hope they awaken our leaders to what is most important: putting aside differences to lead people gently.
The only thing that disheartens me more than disconnected politicians is disconnected pastors. Christian leaders are called to be like Jesus. Our Great Shepherd was always theologically accurate AND always gentle with broken people. He came from the Father full of grace AND truth. Jesus knew people were in a battle, making them tender like reeds that break easily OR candles that extinguish quickly [see Matthew 12:20]. But when pastors choose accuracy over gentleness, choose huddling with saints over walking with sinners, they may Biblically accurate, but they are hindering the good news of Jesus Christ.
As a pastor, I must spend time in the storm. To see and feel and empathize with what is really happening on the front lines. Then, will theological accuracy and Spirit-led gentleness, I may be able to glorify God by helping people. Yes, we have core beliefs to uphold, but our beliefs never justify breaking a bruised reed or snuffing out a smoldering wick.
Most people are facing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual storms all the time. Some of these storms are catastrophic. What we don’t need is distant politicians or pastors. Instead, we need leaders who won’t compromise the truth to be gentle. Nor will they compromise being gentle to advance the truth. Instead, leading like Jesus, we can walk with broken people and point them to a Father who loves, convicts, forgives, and restores.