January 20, 1998
A simple statistic reveals human attitudes. For instance, 44% of American youth say if they do not like the candidates, there is no reason to vote. If political leaders don’t please them, they opt out of the system and refuse to support any leader.
Public support encourages leaders but voters’ personal preferences do not determine who makes a good leader. Leaders usually advocate change. Voters do not always see change as positive. They may decide to not follow that leader, even if the change would benefit them.
What if change challenges moral values, personal ethics or spiritual waywardness? Leaders who do this could be unpopular because of it. Does that make them poor leaders?
Sometimes the best leaders are the least popular. For instance, more than 99% of the population of Israel rejected Christ’s leadership. When He was arrested and taken to Calvary, His best friends abandoned Him. However, lack of popularity did not change His value as a leader.
In Jesus’ case, and perhaps in other situations where people refuse to support a leader, the difficulty is their own independence. Some people simply refuse to follow anyone. They fiercely proclaim self-reliance and will not let someone else tell them what to do.
The universal cry for freedom often means that kind of freedom. We are just like the Old Testament prophet Isaiah said we are— prone to turn to our own way. However, the Word of God says everyone is in bondage to something. Doing our own thing does not make us free. If we follow our own desires, they rule us. If we ignore the demands of political, legal, religious or social leaders, we will be at odds with a society that does not function very well without some conformity to its rules.
Besides this practical reason to follow social and political leadership, the Bible says we also are responsible for choosing our masters. Some of our options: we can follow our own lusts (they will bring us into addictions and bondage). We can follow the desires of friends (and find ourselves slaves to their demands). We can select political leaders (yet we are seldom happy with the outcome). Not one of those options gives us the leadership we want or the freedom we seek.
How startling that Jesus claimed “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Yet most people, including the Jewish leaders, did not go for that either. They liked their system of law with its 600 plus rules for life. They liked to think they were obeying those rules. They said of Jesus, “We will not have this man rule over us.”
However, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” He also said if they did not want the freedom He offered them, they would “die in their sins.”
The Apostle Paul restated it: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience (to God), which leads to righteousness?”
Both affirm that everyone is a slave to something. Both affirm that those who do not follow God follow their own way, which is sin.
We may not like God’s definitions of our options but we do have the freedom and the responsibility of choosing our own master . . . and of accepting the outcome of that choice.