of kings and wise men

We use the terms “Kings” and “Wise Men” interchangeably to describe the mystery men from the east who followed a star to Bethlehem. Does it matter? I don’t think so. But, I do think it matters when it comes to leadership. Kings/Queens or Wise Men/Women? How we view our leaders and, more importantly, how they view themselves has a huge impact on leadership styles and expectations.

The history of our church, past and recent, is filled with scoundrels who sought/seek leadership roles for grandeur, prestige and power along with excessive fashions and symbols of monarchy. Stroll through some famous cathedrals and churches for proof that the institutional Body of Christ has often lacked the humility of its founder. Our ecclesial structures rival world palaces for riches and over the top decadence. Our church has been more often ruled by “kings” than wise men.

The contrast between wise leaders and would-be kings is blatantly apparent in the current political situation in America.

I’m reading “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White-House” by Michael Wolff. It has a “tell-all” gossipy tone to it, but it doesn’t stray too far from what has already been leaked and reported from inside the Trump conclave. The book reads like a sleazy, reality TV show. Take a mix of attention and power seeking individuals, lock them up in a confined space, and watch them battle to the death for an illusive crown/title.

Or, think of a “Game of Thrones” epic battle for crowns and dominions. Alliances are made and broken. Heads roll. Mad men and women rule. Ordinary women and men are used as pawns for evil agendas. All that counts is getting power and holding on to it.

The idea of absolute power by divine right has been largely laid to rest in most of the world. Absolute power is incompatible with democracy. And yet…

What used to be the most powerful democracy in the world is now led by a despot who has lived his life surrounding himself with the trappings of a king. His gold and marble world may be as fake as he is, but he truly believes that he and he alone is the possessor of truth and wisdom. He is the smartest, most stable genius. He is accountable to no one. Any and all challenges to his leadership are “fake news”.

Going back to the Epiphany story, we know the danger of mad kings. Herod was a paranoid king, fearful of any and all who endangered his hold on power. He received news of a possible usurper to his throne and went crazy. We know Herod’s horrific response; the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent babes. Evil power has no empathy. It knows no bounds.

The world needs, more than ever, wise leaders.

Wise women and men do not react impulsively, but patiently read the signs of the times in their quest for truth, justice and peace. They observe, listen, ponder and speak with careful discernment. When they see the “star”, they leave present comfort with nothing but a hope that the journey will bring future enlightenment.

Wise women and men do not fear the unknown. The unknown nudges them to seek clarity and wisdom from other wise souls. They take risks, without risking the lives of those they serve.

The world needs wise leaders.

And, for the sake of the world, we need to dethrone mad “kings”.




2 thoughts on “of kings and wise men

  1. “Kingship” presumes somehow that authority comes from God. It does, I guess, but not through the “crown” or sceptre but rather through human nature: the need for order within community. “Where two or three are gathered in my name…” is an extension of community to faith. In other words, our “organization” must reflect the person and message of Jesus AND the human person in community, if it is truly “church”. Thus, complex, representative, and absolutely requiring accountability, redress.
    Those in – and who seek – power seem more intent in maneuvers to get and keep than how to represent. Representation, we the governed, become tools, pawns. In ways subte and overt they thwart accountability in the guise of service.
    You hint at the possibility that equating “kings” and “wise men” by our “legitimate teaching authority” might be such a ruse, subtle though it might be?

    1. Equating kingship with wisdom is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of “divine right” leadership, whether ecclesial or secular. We need to choose leaders based on their wisdom, not on heredity or popularity. We also have to be careful not to presume that a wise leader is wise in all things at all times. Putting our leaders, no matter how much we respect them, on pedestals is bound to lead to disappointment. Even the wisest of leaders have moments of weakness, or failures. But, wise leaders don’t live under the delusion of omnipotence and omniscience. They accept their own human nature with humility, accepting responsibility for their mistakes and seeking to learn from them.

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