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LEADERSHIP SERIES- THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG AND THE POWERFUL (Part II)

LEADERSHIP SERIES
(THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG AND THE POWERFUL- PART II)

When we take a look at the disciples of Jesus we notice that He didn’t go in search of those with the most impressive CVs. In fact it would seem that He deliberately went for those who had very obvious defects. There was something that attracted Him to deficient and weak people, He would rather be involved in the making of others than celebrate finished products. 
This is quite different from the kind of “leadership” many chief executives and socio-political leaders are involved in giving. If you have ever been involved in human resource development in any capacity whatsoever, whether as the pastor of a church, as the team leader in a unit at your workplace, or as a teacher who is genuinely interested in the lives of the students you teach you  would have had first hand knowledge of how arduous it is to train or develop people.
The easier things to do would be to avoid “raw material” and go for the “finished products.” 

Jesus did neither.

He knew that the most profound treasures were hidden under huge volumes of dross and dirt. He knew that the treasure in the human resource was no different and as long as there was a longing for change in the heart of man and a predilection to work towards it there would be nothing that could hinder transformation from manifesting.
So He picked His twelve and did not pick men who had no reason or desire to be helped. 

It would seem to the untrained eye that He had a bunch of very unpromising recruits; men who would ordinarily not be considered by most of us for such a sensitive task even though most of us are very much like the same men. 

Consider Matthew (also known as Levi) the tax collector. Matthew essentially had a franchise to collect taxes, some of which he most likely kept for himself, while remitting the remainder to the Roman authorities to help support their pagan system. Tax collectors were so hated by the populace that calling a person a tax collector (or publican) by way of insult was considered one of the most derogatory and demeaning invectives.
By rabbinic custom Matthew could never enter the temple, never give testimony in court, and never be forgiven for his sins. No God-fearing Jews would have anything to do with him. That was how much of a traitor he was considered to be.
Yet Jesus picked this outcast among Jews as one of His twelve disciples, and Matthew had the privilege of writing one of the four gospels. 

We could easily imagine why Jesus could be tagged a renegade and trouble maker by some people when we see how He recruited insurgents like James and John the sons of Zebedee to fit into His core circle of twelve apostles. These were people that were known as “the Boanerges”, and the “sons of thunder.”
A little glimpse into the background to all these would explain the mindset and prevailing orthodoxy under which these men operated. 
The Roman Empire ruled over much of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
One of the farthest corners of the Roman Empire, Judaea was a land of ancient traditions and religious fervor and decades of Roman rule were causing ever more resentment among the indigenous people. 
During the first century, Rome had dominion over Israel.  In 63 BC, after the Romans invaded and conquered Jerusalem, in order to keep control over the Galilean and Judean peoples, Julius Caesar and the Senate installed Herod as king. He became one of Caesar Augustus’ favorite military leaders, and was admired by the new emperor because of his immense development program. He undertook several projects successfully and had administrative acumen that endeared him to the Roman authorities.  
Not only did Herod expand the Temple in Jerusalem to be more grandiose and Hellenistic-Roman in style, but he also imposed a sacrifice that the priests would give on behalf of Rome and the emperor.  

Additionally, Herod had whole cities named to give reverence to Caesar as well as imperial temples and fortresses to reinforce Roman control.  The great building campaigns were not possible without taxing the peoples of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea greatly; leaving the majority in poverty.  Not only were they required to pay taxes to the Empire, but they continued to function as a “temple-state” and were also required to pay the customary tithes and sacrifices of the Jewish religion.  There was an intense offense against the Romans that was the product of being forced into idolatry along with the difficult economic reality they imposed on them.
As one writer stated:
“The demand for tribute to Rome and taxes to Herod imposed on them in addition to the willful tithes and offerings to the Temple and priesthood dramatically escalated the economic pressures on peasant producers, whose livelihood was perennially marginal at best.  After decades of multiple demands from multiple layers of rulers many village families fell increasingly into debt and were faced with loss of their family inheritance of land.  The impoverishment of families led to the disintegration of village communities, the fundamental social form of such an agrarian society…”

 The Jews responded in various ways to the rule of Rome and the appointed governors and client-kings.
 The first response saw some Jews, as in the case of the Sadducean priestly order and the Herodian dynasty, live in compromise and subservience to the Empire, implementing the Romans’ wishes and playing the classic Uncle Tom role; this was deliberately designed to secure their place in the scheme of things and maintain the status quo. These people effectively sabotaged all efforts of their kith and kin to attain redemption from the Romans and in return they were rewarded with positions and the perks of office that came with them. 
The second kind of response from another group of Jews was a basic acceptance of Roman rule, with an implied readiness to challenge the Empire when Roman injustice became too much to bear. This “challenge”  was usually carried out as nonviolent subversion and protests.  
The third response was a total and complete rejection, though nonviolent, of Roman rule.  
The fourth way that Jews responded to this circumstance was embodied by the Zealots in violent rejection of Rome, this would lead to the eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
 It is in this fourth category you would find James and John “the sons of thunder.”

To think that even after their three years of close proximity to Jesus while He walked on the earth they would still be asking if the aim of His death and resurrection was to lead the final insurrection against Rome that would overthrow it and put Israel in its place was astounding.
He was patient and simply told them it was not in their place to know what times and seasons God had set in His power.

Of course we realize He did not leave them the same way He met them. He was patient to guide them through their misguided notions and obstinacy. He had spent three years teaching them and pointing them towards a superior ideology that was extra-natural, the ideology of the Kingdom of God. Even after all these they were still asking at His resurrection “Will you now restore the Kingdom (authority) to Israel?” (Acts :6)

These were examples of the human raw material He had to work with.

It is completely superfluous to speak about the likes of Judas Iscariot whose penchant for avarice Jesus already knew sufficient about before selecting him to be part of the twelve.
There was Thomas who is the poster boy for incertitude and skepticism. 
There was of course Peter who was noted for his impetuousness, instability, and garrulousness.
These were just some of the other members of the group of twelve whose individual dispositions were equally dismal.

I cannot but imagine the dreary outlook a person who took a cursory glance at this bunch would feel, especially when one considers that it was these same men that would be the custodians of divine secrets. 
It was on these men that all hope for the advancement of the Kingdom of God would lie. 
Jesus did not just take a casual glance at them, He took a long look and saw potential that many of us would not see.
This is the way God sees- He sees the possibility in every “impossibility.” He sees the finished product in the primal matter of the human resource.

It is this same perspective that sets the genuinely strong apart from those that have some indices of power and thus think they are strong.
True strength is measured by how the “strong” treat the weak. 
There are human beings who imbibed this same mindset through history, and it was this mentality that made them strong in the eyes of God.
The one who is genuinely strong is the one that protects the weak. 
The one who is genuinely strong is not the one who is willing to trample on others in order to look like something he is not, he is the one who wants to make men.
He is the one who is committed to making heroes out of zeroes.

This is the kind of leadership we must all aspire to give, and the sort of leader we must all strive to be.

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Infomation motivational

LEADERSHIP SERIES- THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG AND POWERFUL

LEADERSHIP SERIES
THE UNDERDOGS: THE REAL STANDARD FOR MEASURING THE STRONG & POWERFUL

When we think about the strong and the powerful in society we usually think in terms of those politicians, celebrities and business moguls that have a ton of cash.
The word “powerful” evokes images of glamour, stupendous wealth, fame, and complete loyalty and subservience from a coterie of aides and dependents.
It brings to mind large business empires, convoys and motorcades, red carpet treatment and political patronage. It makes us envision a select few for whom the world has gone beyond a global village to a global street; we see people who at the drop of a hat can get almost anything they want done. That is usually the life the average person thinks about when he thinks about being strong or powerful. 

It is the kind of life many of us aspire to lead.

While the above perspective of power might not be incorrect it certainly is incomplete.
We tend to view as powerful people that bark orders and get anything they want to indulge in while having others sniveling around them.
That is just the way we tend to look at the world.  

Compared to most of us Jesus had an unconventional and upside down way of looking at the world. 
It was an expression of what made Him the greatest leader the world has ever seen. It was an expression of God’s perspective of power and just what would endear a leader to both God and humanity.
It was an unfolding of God’s definition of power and what it really means to be powerful. 
How did Jesus view people? How did He treat and relate with them? And what secrets are therein for us to exploit in being the kind of political, religious, domestic, and civil leaders we ought to be?

The poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed are all groups mentioned in Jesus’ first recorded sermon. It makes perfect sense that the people you mention are the ones that are important to you. The mention of these groups gives a very strong indication of His unconventional perspective.
Indeed, a more than cursory glance at His earthly lifestyle and His parables reveal one salient fact. 
God is usually on the side of the underdog- the unjustly oppressed, the one who has no other one to fight for him, the weak, the outcast.
And in order to be effective we must learn to think like Him.

Let’s take a look at a couple of His parables-

The story is told of two men- one was a very rich man, and the other was a beggar who lay at his gate, poor, wretched, and covered in sores. The beggar’s name was Lazarus. 
We are not told the name of the rich man.
It is not likely that many of us would know names of more indigent and less privileged people than socialites and celebrities in our cities and countries, unless of course we were working in Camps for Internally Displaced People or Homeless Shelters.

In another story we find three men, with two different responses to the same stimulus. A man on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho fell upon highway robbers who dispossessed him of his belongings and beat him till he was within an inch of his life; while he lay bruised and battered by the way two significant persons happened upon him. They were both distinguished and revered religious professionals; incidentally, their responses to the needy man were similar. 
They ignored him and walked on.
We are not told their exact frame of mind, but we have enough maneuverable room to extrapolate. 
We don’t know the nature of their engagements but we can deem it safe to infer that whatever they might have been they were considered to be of more importance than the life of a fellow human being, a life they were in a position to save.
 Another case in point is this, in those days, the members of the Sanhedrin (the Governing Religious Council) had a tradition that demanded they had no interactions with dead bodies, any one of them who touched a corpse would be considered unclean.
It would seem that these sanctimonious men were over-zealous in their bid to uphold these rules and regulations- rules and regulations that did not have a human face. Anyway, they might have taken them so seriously that they didn’t even seek to confirm if the man had any breath left in him before they crossed to the other side of the road.

There was a third man, a man from a tribe considered by the Jews to be mixed race heretics. The members of this tribe were called Samaritans.
It is this man we have come to refer to as the Good Samaritan (a term that suggests he was an exception to what was prevalent among the Samaritans, even though there is not one single mention of a “Good Samaritan”; the Bible referred to him as “a certain Samaritan”). 
This half-breed who was despised by mainstream Jews is the hero of this story and the focal point in the same way that Lazarus was in the previous story.

A certain writer said, “I have actually gone through the Gospels and placed Jesus’ contacts on a homemade graph. With few exceptions, the more upright, conscientious, even righteous a person is, the more Jesus threatens that person. The more immoral, irresponsible, social outcast a person is- in other words, most unlike Jesus Himself- the more Jesus attracts that person. (How is it that Jesus’ followers usually do the opposite?). The free gift of grace descends to whoever will receive it, and sometimes those who have nowhere else to turn are most eager to hold out open hands.”

For the avoidance of doubt the above writer is not attempting to give the impression that Jesus’ position was one of no standards; quite the opposite really. He was attracted to those who were despised and disqualified by men and so were cognizant of the fact that it was only God that could change their conditions. 
In many cases the transformation after meeting Him was so complete that there was absolutely no drive or desire to return to what they were previously bound by. 
It has been correctly said that “Jesus did not come to save us in our sins, He came to save us from our sins.”

Of all the recorded interactions Jesus had with people the one that strikes me the most is the one in which He met the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar. What struck me most was the degrees of separation between them.
For starters, this woman was a Samaritan, and as we have seen Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. They were the descendants of Jews who intermarried with people from nations that were traditionally avoided by ancient Israel because of the multiplicity of idolatrous activities they were involved in. 
Secondly, she was a woman, and it went against conventional practice for a Rabbi to be seen in public talking to a woman.
Thirdly, if there was ever a need to talk to a woman in public it would still have been highly scandalous that it was this woman who was selected. Everyone in the community knew she was a five time divorcee and that she was not married to the man she was living with at the time.
Indeed, some scholars believe that this woman was so ostracized that she had to go get water from an open well in the blazing heat of the noonday sun when it was customary for local Middle Eastern women to draw water in groups early in the morning. 
The divide between both of them had racial, social, moral, and religious components and would ordinarily have been an impassable gulf. But for Him it was not one that could not be bridged. 

He cut through all these differences and settled on one thing they both had in common- thirst.

 Eventually the topic of discussion transcended physical water to spiritual water. 
In all the four gospels it is only here we find it recorded that Jesus introduced Himself to anyone as the Messiah. 
It is not coincidental that He recruits this woman to be His first missionary. 
It is clear that God is attracted to what is traditionally despised by human beings, and is drawn to those that have no other place to turn to. This was the case of the woman at the well of Sychar; He placed faith in her and she rose to meet the challenge. Amazing what the average person can do when a little faith is placed in them.

Another person I can think about is the person we have come to call “Blind Bartimaeus”.
 It is interesting and noteworthy that the majority will tend to refer to us by what we used to be, especially when what we used to be has a tag of shame attached to it. 
We are wont to recall as “Rahab the harlot” the lady who protected the spies Joshua sent to Jericho.
There is just something about human nature that makes us want to grade ourselves as better than others, and we are inclined towards doing so by keeping derisory descriptions of others.
 It’s not uncommon to hear something like, “Don’t you remember Loose Lisa? The one that had all those abortions before she was fifteen”, or “That’s Willy, the fellow who was dealing drugs and raping girls when we were in school.”

The name Bartimaeus literally meant “Son of Filth”, or “Son of Garbage”. Apart from being a blind destitute that subsisted by begging his name was a proclamation that not only deepened the insult but reinforced the adverse circumstances that were his daily experience.
One day, while Jesus walked on the highway out of Jericho He happened to pass by Bartmaeus who, hearing a throng and the footsteps of the crowd that surged around him, asked those beside him what the commotion was about. After he was told who it was that passed that way he cried out “Son of David, have mercy on me.” 
The people who were around him tried to shut him up. There was no doubt in their minds that he was being a nuisance and Jesus would have no time for him. However, they were wrong, just like so many that think they have all the answers.
True to His character, and to the consternation of several people, Jesus stopped, turned round, and sent for Bartimaeus. What happened next shows the tendency of the average human being to stay with one when things are rosy, and abandon when things go awry.
The people that had used hard words in their bid to shut him up were the ones that smiled at him after Jesus noticed him; they were the ones that said to him “Cheer up, the Master calls for you.” This man who was obviously persona non grata to others was noticed and promptly healed by God. 

Of all the people recorded in the Bible that Jesus healed Bartimaeus is the only one mentioned by name.
The ones that are most important to you are the ones whose names you will remember.
The most important point I want us all to note here is twofold- Not all those we call strong and powerful are actually strong or powerful (the yardsticks most of us use are defective in measurement), and to be strong and powerful the most important standard is an assessment of how we treat the weak.

We might know that the measurement of a man’s strength is by how well he treats his wife and children, but have we gone beyond this to see that the measurement of the strength of all those who consider themselves strong is in how they treat those they are better than?