Luke 22:3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
Leadership is hard work. It is hard for all kinds of reasons and those who make much money out of packaging the snake oil of easy leadership are liars, or have never really tried to do real leadership. Or they just don’t tell the stories out of their leadership experiences that contradict what will get us to buy the snake oil. How refreshing it would be to be a part of a leadership seminar or read a leadership book, that did not give the impression that the principles being promoted will guarantee desired results. How refreshing to not be given the impression that the leadership qualities being sold are success in a can – guaranteed – maybe – if one uses them properly. Well, maybe there are such books and conferences. I hope so.
Satan entered into Judas Iscariot. Well, Satan did not enter into a neutral party. Judas was a thief from the beginning. There, some might say, was Jesus’ first leadership error. He did not screen his team properly. He lets Judas into the band and for three years Judas fumes within himself about how Jesus is not heading toward what Judas hoped for. For three years he helps himself to the money entrusted to him by Jesus. By the time of the betrayal Judas is fed up. He has been patient. But he knows that if things are going to go the way they should, they are going to have to happen with someone other than Jesus. What would Judas have said to Jesus if there had been a confrontation? What would he have said to Jesus regarding his leadership abilities? Why couldn’t Jesus have allowed Judas enough input to at least give him a sense of being a contributing member of the team? Why didn’t He sit down with Him and seek to help him get over his issues and lead him away from his sense of isolation and frustration? Well, perhaps He did do all of that. Even good leadership garners opposition and there are some people who just can’t be satisfied and there are some people who wouldn’t respond to good leaders even if it was God Himself – Oh wait, that was who Judas had as his leader.
Leaders makes mistakes and there is no doubt that every leader on the planet can become a better one. But Jesus couldn’t. He couldn’t become a better leader. He was the best leader there ever was. He was perfect in His methods and goals and abilities to communicate them to His team. And still not everyone on the team was a supporter. Sometimes the old adage “I coached good but boy did they play bad” really is true. It was in Jesus’ case. He coached flawlessly. He had vision, goals, purpose, and He knew what to do to reach them. He was training His team for leadership after His inevitable departure. He discipled them flawlessly.
The problem with Judas was his heart. And a wicked heart will not respond to even flawless leadership. Those of us who have a calling to lead others should assess ourselves on a regular basis. When things go awry and people complain about the direction they are being led, we need to check and see if their complaints have any merit. When they do, we need to say so. We cannot, like Jesus, respond with the knowledge that our leadership is flawless. Leadership involves repentance.
But there are times when even a sinful leader’s motives and actions are right. There are times when the vision is right, the purpose statement is bang on and the chosen path for achieving the goals is as it should be and those who do not like what is going on, are wrong. This is where the real test of leadership comes into play. How he handles success, or being right, says as much about a leader as how he handles failure.
When we are being led by people of integrity and honesty and they are right and we are wrong we need to admit it and get ourselves in line. But it is very rarely the case when there is complete rightness on one side and complete wrongness on the other in a dispute. And what needs to happen in the vast majority of cases is repentance and forgiveness from both sides. Two people, one who has done wrong and one who has had wrong done to him, both seek reconciliation, because both are believers. Sometimes it must be the leaders who do this. Sometimes it must be those who are following them. Most times it is a combination of both. Sometimes, people are so sure that where the leaders are taking them is so off base that they pick up their ball and go elsewhere. Sometimes the leader is so sure that because he is the infallible leader that he sees to it that the opposition gets out of the way. It is amazing that God gets His goals and purposes and grand vision realized at all. But He always does. The only ones who suffer are those who refuse to get in on what He is doing.
This was Judas’ problem. He came to see that he was indeed wrong. But his evil unrepentant heart would not let him repent or seek to get back on the right track. God’s purposes were achieved. Judas unwittingly helped get them done and lost his own soul in the process. It is a tragic tale, from Judas’ side of things. He had no one to blame but himself. He had the perfect leader. His sin resented that. He chose badly and he was lost to the greatest movement the world has ever seen.
How we all, leaders and followers alike, need to be constantly taking stock to make sure that our own hearts and minds are not taking us to places where we will miss what God has for us. The consequences, hopefully, will never be as tragic for us as they were for Judas. We need to constantly be cultivating a self examining spirit that never confuses one’s own desires and perceptions as always being God’s. His way is best. Leading is not about defending one’s own direction and following is not about knowing that one is being led astray and has the calling to take over.
All believers have the perfect Leader. And it is a joy beyond description to know that when things go differently than the way we wanted, it is not because of faulty leadership. “Come follow me” our flawless Leader says. And there is never a place where He will take us that we need fear to go. Judas missed that. Let us learn from him and never make the same mistake.