catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 19 :: 2011.10.28 — 2011.11.10


Leading for the common good

It was autumn when Nehemiah’s brother and others arrived with the disturbing news of his hometown’s condition. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed” (Nehemiah 1:4). Terrorists had attacked more than seventy years earlier, and he and many others were forcefully carted off.

A new leader took over Nehemiah’s residence and offered to let the displaced return home. Many did, including those who rebuilt the Temple, but the city walls were in shambles. Following intense prayer, Nehemiah asked the king’s permission to return to his home and was granted a leave of absence. After arriving, he assessed the situation, formulated a plan, enlisted and equipped helpers and rebuilt the walls in 52 days.

I had a similar experience after moving to a small town. It was an election year. One councilman chose not to run for re-election, and a younger resident was planning to challenge a long time mayor. No one seemed interested in filling the vacant council position. A number of residents encouraged me to file, but being a novice to public office, I was reluctant. Since I had an interest in the town, I filed and won. For the following four years, I grew more familiar with the practice of “common good.”

“Common good” is defined as “the concern of the government for the health, peace, morality, and safety of its citizens.” The preamble to the United States Constitution incorporates it by stating:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It’s been said if you are leading and no one is following, you should reassess your position. Of course, no matter how good our leadership skills, some will not follow. Some opposed Nehemiah. Nor will our efforts to enact the common good always make everyone happy. But leaders must lead with this idea in mind to be worthy of the title.

Adding a spiritual dimension magnifies the responsibility. Making decisions affecting the common good should be based on a leader’s individual and growing relationship with God. They depend on him for guidance and success in their efforts but are never satisfied to sit still. There are visions and dreams to fulfill that will benefit all they serve, but God’s plan, not their own, is what they surrender to. Everything they propose for others is unselfish and bathed in prayer.

Leading is a privilege carrying great responsibility. It’s not for the faint of heart — and yet it is. Only those who realize they aren’t worthy will truly seek the common good of others.

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