Allow human leaders to be human

After Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, the eleven apostles assumed bearing leadership responsibility. Humanly speaking, this required immediate accountability on crucial matters, assuming Jesus had no longer been available. But Jesus had been as present as before His ascension, although not observed physically. Understandably, those disciples were as limited as anyone accustomed to the physical universe. Nevertheless, Jesus had informed them of what would happen after His departure. His Spiritual communication could not be comprehended by physical humans before they had received the Holy Spirit.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:14-21 KJV).

The reality of Jesus’ words was accomplished during the Pentecostal phenomenon, as highlighted in Acts 2. Jesus had asserted His presence, without leaving them as orphans, after His ascending. As outlined above, that message did not make sense to those disciples. They could not comprehend spiritual matters, which were not exclusive to those original disciples. They were instructed to wait for the Holy Spirit that would direct them on matters of Christianity.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” (Acts 1:4 KJV).

Their physical limitations caused them to fail to understand. Rather than wait, they suggested an apparent noble idea, but misguided. Jesus had unequivocally instructed them to abide by His words. The idea of waiting did not appeal to them, as still engulfed in fallibility.

The Holy Spirit had been intended to direct their Spiritual conduct. In their physical condition, they could not communicate with God, hence discarding Jesus’ words. The appointment of an additional apostle appeared noble. But how did this reconcile with Jesus’ calling, in the first place?

Peter assumed the leadership role, thereby suggesting that Judas Iscariot needed a replacement. This culminated in Matthias’ appointment, leading to his ordination as an apostle. They were not guided by the Holy Spirit, at that time. Neither had Jesus commanded them to cast lots.

Their collective decision, through Peter’s leadership, was not sanctioned by Jesus. Peter’s assumption of leadership was, probably, based on Jesus’ insinuation (Matthew 16:17-18). However, Jesus had specifically said His Church would be established through Peter’s understanding (Matthew16:13-20). This is different from using Peter’s physical capacity.

The rock inferred by Jesus was in Peter’s understanding, unattached to physical humans. Peter could not be responsible for building that Church. Jesus had enunciated the issue of Church leadership (Matthew 23:8-12). If Jesus would use Peter, it would be as Jesus could use anyone. The evaluation of those used was never accorded to physical humans.

None of the apostles, including Peter, had submitted their credentials, for selection consideration. Peter’s limitations had manifested even during Jesus’ presence. Immediately after being commended for accurately identifying Jesus, Peter’s humanity manifested; inviting Jesus’ rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan: you are a stumbling block to me: you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23 NIV).

The significant point is to appreciate that, on Godly things, it is unnecessary to focus on human frailties. Of significance is forgiving one another, as Christ forgave us. In this regard, our focus should never be on Peter’s frailties, but on what Jesus said. Throughout the ages, the problem of Christianity has been associated with failure to appreciate this reality.

Human leaders are deified ahead of Jesus. Ordinary humans instinctively, glorify human leaders, ahead of Christ. When Peter suggested the appointment of the twelfth apostle, his colleagues agreed with him. There were no dissenting voices, as everyone perceived insecurity without a physical leader.

This is why individual ideas are the ones that sustain human civilizations, rather than group agreements. The validation of group agreements carries human approval, as opposed to God’s approval. The conduct of the apostles should not, necessarily, be viewed as blameworthy.

Nevertheless, Matthias, as an additional apostle, was not appointed by Jesus, responsible for appointing apostles. Jesus had not instructed them to appoint additional apostles, where necessary. He had assured them of not leaving them as orphans. This suggests that Jesus was as present as before His ascension.

The idea of casting lots had not been recommended by Jesus. Neither had Jesus validated group agreements, through democratic processes. Any group could come up with the noblest ideas, without Jesus’ approval. Interestingly, while Christianity is divided into various denominations, the ones that survive longer are those founded by individuals.

Starting with Martin Luther, down to charismatic Pentecostal groupings, each denomination is sustained by the fundamentals of the respective founding leader. Those attempting to bring democracy through constitutional provisions have failed dismally. The democratically established denominations cannot stand the test of time.

It has always been founders, whether dead or alive, whose groups stand the test of time. This is true even in modern scientific discoveries, sustaining our current civilization. Throughout history, there has never been anything decent ever produced by democratic groupings.

Democracy can be philosophically workable in human governance. However, democracy cannot be workable, when Jesus is at the helm. What remains incontrovertible is that nothing decent has ever come from collective group agreements. Individual characters have always been the ones with workable ideas.

Such characters are known to stand up against all odds, to then attract followers. The same applies to whether such founding leaders could be right or wrong. The truth remains that individual opinions maintain Church groupings, having stood the test of time. Sadly, this has left God’s Church embarrassingly fragmented.

While true that individual decisions have culminated in denominations that stand longer, Christianity was never designed according to such patterns. Jesus is solely the authentic leader in Christianity. Splinter groupings are different from each other but not necessarily authentic.

Others appear authentic, but certainly not authentic, ahead of Jesus, whose name is infallible. Nevertheless, the idea of being attracted by charismatic leaders appears contagious but is caused by cowardice. Very few people accept that Christianity is a lonesome journey. The Corinthian Church portrayed symptoms of this malady.

The most popular preacher of that time was Apollos, as Paul’s writings suggest. Dangerous as this malady was, the apostle Paul attempted to douse it. But nothing shows that Christianity, in general, seriously takes Paul’s admonition in establishing Christian followers. The idea of following human leaders remains attractive to fallible humans.

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas]”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13 NIV).

Leadership is necessary, in the physical universe. Nothing sustains a group without a human leader, and each human was born to be a leader. The wrong thing is assuming that leaders are superior. A Christian organization is structured like a human body, as portrayed by Paul:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 

And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-20).

Which part of a physical body can one give more responsibility over others? If none, then where did making others more superior or inferior come from? Traditionally, it is acceptable to consider other people more respectable than others. But, as James also suggested, this was never designed by God who created everyone in His image.

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4 NIV).

The above Scripture confirms the truth that humans are equal in God’s eyes. Any human being, whether reduced to sleeping on pavements, is a potential child of God. The status of being God’s child is not different from that of Jesus. No sane human should ever abuse other fellow humans when assuming to be better than them. And no sane human should ever assume being inferior to others. Whatever is viewed as wrong, by anyone, should be confronted without flinching.

God’s image is not in physical nature, as currently assumed. While anyone could blame those Corinthians, modern Christians are not different. Modern Christians have gone a step further. This is when considering that Christianity is now defined according to Catholics, Evangelicals, Adventists, Pentecostals and many others, currently denoting Christianity.

No one can astutely pinpoint which, among them, is more authentic than the rest. Each carries a mixture of peculiarly good and bad attributes. If a human body was to behave in that manner, it would be considered deranged. Indeed, what currently prevails excludes the teachings of Jesus. One could do well, when just picking up good attributes from each, leaving out the bad. But why do so, instead of just taking information directly from Jesus?

The phenomenon of Christian divisions describes the condition of humanity, in degraded condition. King Saul was considered honorable, among Israelites, but could not confront the Philistine giant, Goliath. David was considered a nonentity, but he managed to confront Goliath, thereby saving God’s people from the debilitating humiliation.

The lesson derived from David’s story shows that humans are equal. God can use anyone, without, necessarily, considering the background of those used. Each human deserves respect, similarly to how God deserves respect. The apostle John refuted the idea of declaring to love God when unable to love one’s brother, whom one has seen (1 John 4:20).

The newness of the commandment that Jesus insinuated lies in appreciating sameness in humanity. The idea of degrading one another or assuming others are superior to others is of this world. Otherwise, the reality of humanity is that while all are created in God’s image, others are degraded or honored according to background complications.

Other people indeed conduct themselves disrespectfully, so that it becomes almost impossible to respect them. But each person is a keeper of his/her brother/sister. Jesus was not drunk when stating that the greatest in God’s Kingdom is the one assuming being the servant of all. The great work by our leaders ought to be commended, but without facilitating idolatry. Human leaders are as human as any other, regardless of background.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those who have witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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