The Beatitudinal Leader

The Beatitudinal Leader July 4, 2014

In the history of the church, moral teachings often flow from the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues. The seven deadlies are wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The seven virtues tend to be chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. One might reasonably ask where such lists come from and the answer is “lots of places, including the Bible.” So one thinks of the listings one finds in the Ten Commands or in Micah 5 or in Proverbs 6 or in Galatians 5. In the Christian tradition, while these virtues and vices applied to all Christians (and non-Christians in God’s mind), they were especially to be the case with pastors and priests and bishops and deacons.

But there’s another list at work as well, the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12. I have gone on record (Sermon on the Mount) to say I don’t think this is a virtue ethic list so much as a list of who is in and who is out of the kingdom, and the list confronted Jesus’ Galilean and Jewish audience with some startling news: Those they think are certain kingdom people just might not be, and the ones they often ignore or exclude just might be kingdom people. However, if the Beatitudes are seen this way they indirectly point to the sorts of character, or behaviors, Jesus approves of. Hence, the Beatitudes can be both a shocking revelation that conventional wisdom gets it wrong as well as set of clear traits Jesus expects for his kingdom followers, most especially leaders.

It’s a good day to think about leaders — including national leaders who claim a connection with the messianic king.

What is the issue? Is this how we teach leadership today? Do we work at these sorts of virtues/ethics or something else? What are the keynotes of leadership topics today?

So the 3d part of Joseph Stowell, Redefining Leadership, focuses on “core competencies” from the angle of the kingdom of God, from the angle of Jesus’ kingdom vision, and thus from the angle of the Beatitudes. There are, he says, two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. Kingdom leaders have chosen Jesus as King. The Sermon on the Mount, he argues, is the constitution for the kingdom. The gospel is the good news that the King has come and has inaugurated his kingdom (134). [You go Joe!]

So Stowell asks: “What would our leadership look like if we led by kingdom values?” (134). The powers of this world’s kingdom are challenged by the way of King Jesus. So Stowell maps a virtue ethics approach to the Beatitudes for the leader:

A leader is:

1. Reliant upon God.
2. Repentant from sin.
3. Meek inside out.
4. A passion for what is right.
5. Merciful.

6. Pure in heart.

OK, at times my readings of these Beatitudes takes different directions but Stowell reflects the church tradition on the Beatitudes, which I respect. Not the issue for the moment: What is the issue? Is this how we teach leadership today? Do we work at these sorts of virtues/ethics or something else? What are the keynotes of leadership topics today?

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