I was scrolling through my newsfeed the other day and noticed a post by one of my Brazilian friends. She had posted a photo of a book she is reading. The title of the book caused me to pause, “Jesus, O Maior Lider Que Ja Existiu,” “Jesus, The Best Leader Who Ever Lived.” My friend said she was inspired by the book and hashtagged it as #TheBookoftheMonth.
I googled a bit and discovered the book to be a Portuguese translation of an American writer’s bestseller – that’s what the author’s website says, anyway, Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership. Apparently they could not find literal Portuguese translation of the silly English title. Amazon describes the content of the book as, “Following the example of Jesus, a ‘CEO’ who built a disorganized ‘staff’ of twelve into a thriving enterprise, a handbook for corporate success details a fresh, profound approach to motivating and managing others that translates to any business.”
I am pretty sure I wouldn’t like the book.
Of course, Jesus was an amazing leader. If I had to chose, I’d take title of the book in Portuguese over the English because, while a great leader, Jesus was not a CEO. If all we find in following Jesus is a profound approach to motivating and managing others we’ve missed him altogether. We might as well spend $315,000 on a Rolls Royce Wraith because it has the best hood ornament ever.
Following Jesus is the best thing anyone can do. But from a managing and motivating perspective, Jesus is a lousy leader. He sums up the life of those who follow him as cross-bearing, and the details of that life include persecution, loss of family and friends, no place to call home, turning the other cheek and going the extra mile, and the hate of the world around us. People left prosperous positions as tax collectors and fishers to follow this lousy leader, and there is no indication they ever made or had as much again.
The Apostle Paul was managed and motivated by Jesus, and he lists on his CV “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
I don’t know how they handle that in the recruiting brochures for Jesus Inc.
Sure. I get it. Jesus was and is an amazing leader. And the Flying Lady is the best hood ornament ever. You’d be a fool to spend $315,000 for even best hood ornament over.
Jesus is so much more than a great leader. He is, in fact, a lousy leader by CEO standards. The confession scene in the film version of John Newton’s life, Amazing Grace, says it well. The old slaver has been found by the young William Wilberforce. His life nearly over, he tells is friend, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
Why settle for a leader when you can have a savior?
The writer to the Hebrews says we are to look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame, not for the sake of a thriving enterprise, but for the joy of reunion with his Father, and through him, our reconciliation, as well.
The Lenten journey is not to a mahogany paneled boardroom. It is to a despised hill outside Jerusalem known as the Place of the Skull. Golgotha was a place for shame and death. It is also the only place in all the universe and in all of time where love defeated shame and death. It’s worth the journey – not for the sake of motivation and management, but for love.
See you Sunday