Does a leader's personal life matter?
Every so often in American politics, this question rears its head and generates fierce debate, pitting voters against each other and stirring volatile emotions on both sides. Some argue that an individual who has proven less than trustworthy in personal matters is not worthy of the trust of strangers. Others argue that anyone, even a powerful leader, should be judged only on the performance of formal responsibilities, and that anything beyond that is no one else's business.
To date, no resolution to this argument has been found, but opportunities for debate still abound.
In the latest example of a high-profile individual caught up in personal scandal, comedian David Letterman addressed his audience frankly about his recent experiences with attempted extortion committed by an individual threatening to reveal embarrassing information.
While few would consider a TV host to be an important leader in our society, the incident serves as an example of how a leader's standing, credibility, and authority are compromised by personal scandal. Like it or not, Dave will never be looked upon in the same way.
Sure, Dave's comments to his audience were well-received, and he will certainly have the support of his fans throughout the ordeal, but few leaders have the benefit of Dave's sharp wit and a nightly TV audience to help overcome the damage of personal scandal.
Most leaders in this position are simply compromised and crippled by it.
For the Christian, it's easy to think this principle applies to ministers, deacons, shepherds, people we recognize as leaders in the body of Christ. And, of course, it does. Scripture makes clear that leadership in the church requires a personal life that will not be a stumbling block (I Timothy 3:1-13).
But what is so easy to forget is that every Christian is in a position of influence and, in the eyes of someone, leadership. Scripture clearly identifies every member of the body of Christ as a "priest" in his or her own right, (I Peter 2:9), having full right to approach the throne of God through Christ.
Every Christian relishes direct access to God, but imagine for a moment that we didn't all have it, that only certain, special people did, and the rest of us looked to them for contact with the Lord.
In that scenario, what would we expect of those special people? How would we feel about their privileged status, and our dependence on them, if we found them to be personally lacking in character or trustworthiness?
No, no one is expecting anyone to be sinless. All need the blood of Christ. No one can stand before God without it.
But influence is a fragile thing. Credibility is just as easily broken.
We all expect our leaders to maintain both.
But is there any reason why we should expect anything less of ourselves?