Illustration by Dale Hamilton

Our thanks to all who so gamely wrote essays for Father Kuder’s final exam question. Below are our ‘Editor’s Choice’ articles picked from the submissions.

The essay question, again:

If Christians know who they are by watching Christ, what event in Jesus’ life has most influenced your leadership thinking and why?

ESSAY 1

By Don Clarke (’79)

This is indeed an interesting assignment. The words of Jesus can be used, and rightfully so in many ways, to show leadership and challenge leadership. But it is an act of silence and pause that speaks to me of Jesus’ significant example of leadership.

In John 8, we are told the story of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus’ response of “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” It is once again a disarming remark of Jesus that turns the experience into a new way of looking at what seemed like an inevitable reaction. But the wisdom might be really found in two acts of pause, of reflection, two “non-billable” moments that offer the deepest challenge to leadership today.

“Hurry up” is the pace of life for so many people. A leader’s worth might be rated by the number of assistants one has but the lifestyle is generally one of a hurry up to the next, marking time in overbooked double meetings, Kardashian-ed relationships, 140 character tweets, and zombie moments in front of a flat screen.

“Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

And those around him kept looking for an answer, knowing the answer already, knowing what the response had to be… it was what the law said. “C’mon Jesus, just tell us the size of the stone.”

“… you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

“Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

I wish I had that wisdom of Christ. Today, for me, as I wrestle with the words of Jesus and the desire for that wisdom, it is my sense that it is the two acts of stopping that teach me tremendously. Daily moments of pause, an examen, may do the most to equip me when I am found in a leadership role. Not a process halting pause but one long enough to turn off a radio while driving, a memorized prayer while thinking something through, or bending down to scratch the ground. Propping the door open to let the Spirit of God out or let the Spirit of God in…but there is a need to let the Spirit of God be.

With a smartphone tone or rattle disrupting anything it can, the challenge for my hectic life and thereby leadership is that pause to think, realign, reassess and then to see through to the real response. When the elders in the story of Mark 8 leave, one by one, their integrity has been rewound and as a woman meets face to face with the Son of God, the depth of His response “from now on do not sin any more” asks her to move forward through life with new understanding.

I pray I could be that kind of leader. I wish I could remember to pause when everything thing else says to hurry.

ESSAY 2: Peace on Earth

By James M. Wallrabenstein

“Peace on Earth” is a common sentiment this time of year, but how do we achieve it?  “Happy are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)  In this Beatitude Jesus was preaching unpopular doctrine.  The Jews were under the heel of the Roman Empire.  They were not anxious for peace until they could first obtain freedom.  They were looking for military leaders, not peacemakers.  As is true with nearly all prophets, past and present, the crowd generally opposes progress.  As Jesus stated it, “So persecuted they the prophets.”  In the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the book of Matthew, Jesus dares to challenge the propaganda of wealth, corporate and military power, and empire that floods our media, disastrously influences our government decision-makers, and perpetuates the familiar military pattern: theorize, demonize, victimize, rationalize.  So what is the answer?  Albert Einstein wrote: “We must begin to inoculate our children against militarism by educating them in the spirit of pacifism…I would teach peace rather than war, love rather than hate.”

For many who call themselves Christians, the event of Jesus’ birth (Christmas) or the event of his crucifixion and resurrection (Easter) serve as a focus of belief.  For me, it is the event of his teaching that has most influenced my leadership thinking.  The Sermon on the Mount encapsulates Jesus’ message of peace to the people of the world.  “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these saying, the people were astonished at his doctrine:  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”  (Matthew 7:28-29)  Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, not because we ought to, or because it is our duty, but rather because it is essential to the development of any solid or successful social order.

Through his teachings, we learn of Jesus’ commitment to a new social reality of Shalom and justice.”  Indeed, the counsel of God’s prophets even today is not usually sought by those in positions of power!  For me, the best kept secret of the Bible is that there is an imbalance; the prophetic voice tilts toward a new community for which God would not need a visa to visit.  The family of man has failed to heed the lessons found in the teachings of Jesus.  His lessons were not of individual salvation, but of collective responsibility for one another.

In 2012 elections will be held for the president, 33 senators and all members of the House of Representatives.  What a glorious opportunity to focus discussion on why greater than 50 percent of this country’s financial resources are devoted to militarism rather than peace.  The message of Jesus was one of commonwealth, not empire.

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