One of the most destructive elements of leadership within service to Christ is the underdeveloped capacity to distinguish between personal and official infractions. In addition, the leader who is charged with moving God’s vision forward must become comfortable in applying consequences appropriately. And although the standard of what is considered appropriate will always be subjectively scrutinized according to earthly wisdom, God’s appointed leader must search & seek Gods heart and mind to fulfill her/his assignment. The way to achieve optimum success — not perfection — is by searching the scriptures within the context of multiple counsel and by allowing the Holy Spirit sufficient time and space to inform the situation.
For those leaders today who are struggling with betrayal, apathy within their leaders, jealousy, inappropriate conversations which are personal attacks in their nature, and the manipulation of others who are not as sophisticated in the art of competition as they are — I offer this as a help.
In 970B.C.E., the second King of the Jewish people, David, sat with his son whom he was preparing to ascend his throne. His name was Solomon. King David was an old man at this time and was attempting to get in-front of a conspiracy to usurp his throne. David had already determined that Solomon would become the next King of Israel after his death.
As David discussed the transition with his son Solomon he shared some issues that could better be called ‘unfinished’ family business. In 1Kings we learn of this internal plot by Anodijah, the half-brother of Solomon. He gains the support of key political and wealthy people who must have considered themselves to be ‘king-makers’. Of these were Joab and Abiathar. Both men served David faithfully at one time. They were commonly known as David’s Mighty Men, a ban of approximately 30 warriors who aided a younger David as he evaded capture by the first king, Saul. Joab was a commander of David’s army and Abiathar was a priest.
Years earlier David was faced with a similar situation. His son, Absolam was murdered by Joab. David sent Joab out to capture Absolam after he had usurped David’s throne. Absolam became caught in the branches of a tree and suspended from his horse. Instead of
Joab restraining him as David commanded, Joab intentionally killed him while he defensively hung in the tree. David wept and mourned bitterly over Absolam’s death.
Now as David is conveying the bitter memories of his tenure as King and those who were on his list for offenses against the state, he reminds Solomon of what Joab “did to me”. David describes Joab’s offenses against himself — personally. Yet, the manner he charges Joab is official. In 1Kings 2:5 David charges how Joab, “killed” Abner and Amasa, shedding their blood in a time of peace. Later Solomon enacts revenge upon Joab and Abiathar. He sends the head of his father’s body-guard to slay Joab. In 1Kings 2:32 The royal warrant is recorded in Solomon’s words: “The Lord will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son Jether, commander of the army of Judah. So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever.” Joab was executed ‘officially’ for murdering two other official servants of King David, both military leaders. Joab was killed cowering for his life and Abiathar was executed after defying the exile placed upon him by Solomon.
In this moment with his son, David is surely remembering the personal pain of betrayal and open defiance Joab displayed by murdering Absolam, David’s son. One can read through the text how Joab continued to be a person of contention within David’s inner council. Now, with Adonijah’s plot to overthrow him with the cooperation of Joab and Abiathar, David has seized the opportunity to enact vengeance — legitimately.
Let’s be clear. No leader can lead officially and not live with the pain personally. This is what makes true leadership so extraordinary. To be enabled to live in the tension which exists between the program and the people is not to be easily dismissed. Many people who find themselves in leadership positions are unsuccessful because they attempt to manage vibrant, living people as though they were widgets. Ignoring or diminishing the collateral damage that is sure to come with living, self-governing, intelligent beings. This glimpse into David and subsequently Solomon’s reign reveals the tension that exists in leadership. A good leader will mark the strengths’ and failings of those he/she leads, while working towards what is in the best interest of the larger community. This interest will serve to provide what may be perceived as delayed justice by some. It may also be misconstrued as negligence by others. The leader knows though that ultimately their decisions must be enacted because they are informed not solely on what is good for the larger community but by the Word and Spirit of God’s leading; for they are His people. Unfortunately, for the leader in ministry, they are not always mutually inclusive. Sometimes God has a plan that appears to upend a community so as to purge sinful customs or practices. And in such circumstances, there is no comfortable place and certainly no place to hide. A godly, decisive leader understands and accepts these outcomes; albeit while displaying grace.
David is not innocent in either of his son’s uprisings. In both cases, it was his neglect to confront Absolam and Andonijah when he learned of there disloyal behaviors and corrosively derisive hearts. The results were devastation, death and an open denouncing of his legitimacy to lead. I would argue history would have been different had David not neglected the early offenses.
In closing I read this meme this morning and thought it applicable:
God’s peace and good journey!
A. David Griffin