Leadership in an individualistic society like the United States is very different from leadership in a communal society like Japan or Korea. It is important to reflect on this in light of today's scriptures. The society into which Jesus was born was communal like Japan. The word Wa in Japanese means peace, harmony and balance and one must never disturb the Wa of a family, town or country. Each person in a communal society works naturally for the common good, and more easily lets go of his or her individual wants and needs for the sake of the community.
Leadership in this context is intuitive. A leader protects, reminds and calls the family, village or nation to Wa, to harmony and balance. On the other hand, in individualistic societies leadership emphasizes the hero, the person(s) whose personality strengths are such that they can push, pull, coax and manipulate those they lead in a particular direction. Leadership is not simply about reminding others of the values a country or company espouses as much as convincing others that a particular course of action is best for all, and is dependent on the political capital that a leader has earned, begged, borrowed or stolen.
When one reads the scripture, written primarily from and for a communal society, leadership is about reminding people of the values of the society. The Pharisees, who are too often denigrated and despised, try to impose their will on the community, but Jesus is adamant that this is not the role of leaders. Today his words about the Pharisees are overwhelming.
Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.Leadership in a gospel context is relational. A leader's primary task is to call people to a union with one another that builds up the society and allows each one to contribute to the common good. Jesus prays for this as he nears death.
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.Unity with one another is the primary sign that we are of God and from God. As Christian leaders, we must work for unity among all peoples and find ways to put aside the divisions that unnecessarily separate us and often cause scandal for those who expect more from believers in Jesus. (1)
Today, ask God to make you a sign of unity in the world and the church.