Authentic leaders leave hardened footprints for others to follow.
One hundred years ago, in the land of Ethiopia, Emperor Menelik II left that kind of print. Being born of royal blood may secure the throne for some aristocrats, but not for this one-of-a-kind monarch. For years, his rightful claim as the nation’s king was delayed by espionage, civil wars, kidnappings, imprisonment and a jailbreak fit for the movies.
Eventually, the colorful Menelik ascended to the throne, leaving footprints that stabilized a nation for generations to come. Among his lengthy achievements were the first modern bank in Ethiopia, the country’s first postal system, a nation wired for telephones, paved roads for automobiles, and cities plumbed for modern efficiencies—regardless of whether they existed.
If there was a higher standard of living elsewhere, Menelik wanted it for Ethiopia.
Having read about a new contraption known as the electric chair, the king was determined to have one—not for executions but for the hot-seat’s reputation for lowering crime.
Menelik ordered the deluxe model—although Ethiopia had no electrical power plants to provide the necessary juice. His idea was to use it as a visual aid to discourage crime. Where better to showcase the foreboding electric chair than as the king’s royal throne. Sure enough, while Menelik sat on his throne, Ethiopia’s crime rate fell.
Menelik was authentic.
However, Menelik’s royal authenticity failed in his use of the Bible. The king’s Christian faith was not based in the Scripture, but in the pages. He believed the Bible had the power to cure illnesses; therefore, every time he felt sick, he ate a few pages from God’s Word. It was the king’s one-a-day multi-vitamin, his royal cure du jour.
After suffering a serious stroke, Menelik prescribed for himself a strict diet of 1 and 2 Kings. He ate both books, page by page, which led to internal complications resulting in his death. It was an authentic idea, but he instead should have had Jell-O.
Authenticity has limits. It must never cross the boundaries outlined by God.
Ironically, in the very pages eaten by Menelik is the account of Josiah—another authentic king who chose to live within God’s boundaries. Josiah’s reign followed a 50-plus-year span when Judah had lived in dark rebellion, ignorant of God’s Word, which had been left untouched, buried under a pile of rubbish in an inactive temple.
The authentic Josiah chose to clean up the house of God, reinstate worship and lead his people back to their first love. Soon, as the laborer’s shovels filled Jerusalem’s dumpsters with debris, they discovered the lost scroll of Scripture.
Once read, Josiah ripped his cloths to express contrition. He knew a holy God, ignored by His rebellious people, would demand accountability.
An edict quickly was passed to gather the nation to hear the reading of the scroll. As the pure Word was read, no one moved. The power of God’s once-forgotten voice cut deeply into the hollow hearts of His people. In response, they vowed to obey all they had heard.
Not surprisingly, Josiah’s epitaph reads, “Throughout his lifetime, the people did not turn from following the Lord God.”
Josiah was authentic.
So are we. Authentic pastors recognize when God’s house has become a storage shed instead of a place of worship. Authentic pastors are unashamed of the gospel of Christ, daring to proclaim its divine authority. Authentic pastors are willing to pay for truth even though compromise is easily affordable. Authentic pastors defy popular trends of easy-believism and costless-discipleship. Authentic pastors trust in the God who wooed them to their roles. Authentic pastors know that chewing pages without swallowing truth only causes indigestion, constipation and ultimately death.
Authentic pastors leave hardened footprints that others are sure to follow.