Mike Baird had just become the Premier of New South Wales — like the Governor of a state for my American readers — and the press struggled to understand how he could be a committed Christian and the leader of all people of all beliefs in his state. In an article in the weekend News Review in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled Dangerous Virtue, a Professor at Regent College ( a “small theological school and seminary” that Baird attended) was quoted as saying in a speech to a graduating class, “Be dangerous to those who diminish the importance of the individual person, in the womb or in the twilight years, or in between — to those who trample the individual soul, out of deference to the convenience of other family members, the health of the economy, the good of the state, or the well-being of the planet.” The Herald then made a pointed comment related to Mike Baird — “An Australian listening may be forgiven for thinking that (the professor speaking at the graduation) is calling for his young charges to oppose pretty well everything that marks business as usual on Macquarie Street (the place where Baird presides over the NSW government).”
The newspaper is confronting us and Baird with a question commonly put to Christians in politics — “What exactly does this man believe and is he going to be a fair leader for all people of all beliefs, or a biased pitchman for Christianity?” Baird to his credit doesn’t engage and answers this unasked but obvious question in a way that everyone can support — “I think my time there (at Regent College) taught me in a very deep and significant way to respect everyone . . . I have this very deep sense that every person matters, that is hopefully what I will bring to government.” His answer is an astute politician’s way of avoiding the question. “What do you believe about God and how will you follow His Will in the Kingdom in your job?” That question and its answer is basically asked of every Christian in every role or job in our secular society. There is no question that Christ asks all Christians to be leaders in changing the world and to be counter-cultural. But what does Jesus intend us to do, in real life?
Jesus’ way of leading-
Here are a few points about Christian leadership that we can see in Jesus’ teaching and example:
- Jesus led by example. He didn’t seek leadership positions and in fact avoided them. He wanted his disciples to keep quiet about who he was, and never asserted his authority even though he could easily have become a widely popular leader and revolutionary.
- Jesus empowered others. He gathered disciples around him and taught them what they needed to know after he had left them after the Ascension.
- Jesus ignored the politics and policies of secular rulers and focused on the individuals who were effected by these essentially unjust laws and cultures. He left all politics and power struggles to “Caesar” and focused on advancing God’s Kingdom no matter what the secular system and culture believed or did.
- Jesus was consumed with loving not doing. He was not results-oriented but relationship-oriented — The relationship between God and man was intimately tied to the relationship between a man and his neighbours.
These points may seem otherworldly and impractical and, in a way they are. Jesus advocated not worrying about what you would eat or wear — God will take care of our human needs. Jesus knew many Christians would end up working for wages to support their families, or even as Premiers or Company Presidents. He simply said, don’t take that part of your life too seriously and lose focus on the much more important aspects of life — your relationships with God and neighbour. Learn how to keep all these things in balance. As the poet T.S. Eliot wrote, “Lord, teach me to care and not to care.” Mike Baird seems (from a distance) to be following Jesus’ way of leading.