"Saul said to Samuel, 'I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.'" - I Samuel 15:24
Here in today's reading the prophet Samuel has been sent by God to Saul, Israel's first king, pink slip in hand. "Saul, you're fired." Why? What did poor, pathetic Saul do wrong?
He listened to the people.
Wait a minute . . . aren't leaders supposed to listen to the people? Aren't they supposed to serve the people? Respond to the people's needs?
That is what a lot of people think leaders are supposed to do. That is what a lot of people in leadership positions seem to think they should do -- listen to the people and be responsive.
But at least occasionally, the effective leader, like the effective parent, says, "No." Gently but firmly, "No."
At least every now and then, the effective pastor, teacher, parent, principal, president does not tell people what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.
When those in leadership positions suffer a failure of nerve and practice leadership according to school of Saul -- "I feared the people and obeyed their voice" -- our churches, companies, schools and communities lose their way.
At least sometimes, someone has to love the people enough that they don't do what the people want but what God asks. Or as someone put it, "Take the high road, there's less traffic."
Grant us the courage to listen less to what people demand and more to what you ask. Amen.
ATony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. Tony is the director of Festival of Preaching NW,which is coming up April 28 - May, 2014 in Seattle.