By Anthony Casperson
Those who’ve been listening to the current sermon series I upload to the website know that we’re in the middle of a series called “Leading in Circles.” Looking at the book of Judges (and tacking on Ruth as well), we’ve been looking at different leaders and what we can learn from them (or in spite of them, as is mostly the case.)
When I started the series, I figured I’d get the chance to talk about my favorite story about an example of leadership. However, as I’m getting to the end of the series (on the writing and recording end, at least), I’ve come to see that this lesson won’t come up in the sermon series. So, we’ll talk about it here.
The interesting part of the lesson is that it comes from a non-educational cartoon show that aired while I was in my early- to mid-teens. “Beast Wars” was a Transformers spin-off detailing the skirmish between the Maximals and the Predicons (descendents of the Autobots and Decepticons, respectively), who fought over the energy resources of a wild and untamed planet. (Later episodes would reveal that it was a prehistoric Earth.)
In the episode “Chain of Command,” the leader of the Maximals, Optimus Primal, is seemingly disintegrated. The rest of the Maximals argue over who should lead, only to receive transmission from Optimus that he’s not dead, just being held in this strange location. He places Rattrap in charge until they can let Optimus loose. Infighting ensues as Rattrap gives orders to his teammates to perform tasks that they don’t like very much.
As they arrive at the location of Optimus’s imprisonment, the Predicons surround them. Rattrap orders one of his teammates to run through the crossfire to set up a location of cover fire so that they can escape easily once Optimus is free. But the others don’t listen to him. They don’t trust in his decisions enough to run through crossfire for him.
They free Optimus, but the Predicons look like they might just defeat the whole Maximal team because their defenses weren’t strong enough without cover fire. Rattrap welcomes his leader back and tells him the dire situation. Optimus acts, jumping through the crossfire, and blasts at the encroaching enemy.
Later, Rattrap asks Optimus about this. To which Optimus responds that what makes a leader truly worthy of having others follow them is being willing to do what no one else is. The reason why the Maximals trust Optimus when he gives them strange orders is because they know he’d be willing to do the same thing.
A great leader doesn’t request of others what they themselves are unwilling to do.
When I think about Jesus, I’m often reminded of this lesson. I stand amazed at how God embodies this leadership style. The Second Person of the Trinity came to Earth enfleshed in humanity to not only die as sacrifice for our sin, but to learn what it meant to be one who obeys. Hebrews 5:8 tells us that though Jesus was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
The great and wondrous God, who created the universe with his voice, humbled himself to obey the voice of others. When God calls us to obey, it’s coming from someone who understands us. He knows what it means to have to obey even when it’s difficult.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, he knelt in the garden praying for the Father to find some other way than for him to die. He didn’t want to die, but as he prayed, he obeyed the voice of the Father, submitting to the cross. He acted, running through the crossfire, to save us from the enemy. Jesus was willing to suffer because he obeyed the Father.
How can we not follow that example? When God calls us to go through difficulties, when he sends us to a place we don’t want to go, when he asks us to give up something good for the better thing he has in store, how can we not obey?
Jesus suffered every temptation that a human being could fall into and was still perfect. He was murdered in the most inhumane method known to humanity. There’s nothing that God can or will call us to that he hasn’t already willingly done before.
He is the greatest of all leaders. When he gives orders, will we obey like he did?