The Leader I'd Like To Have

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because I have been anointed
to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to those without vision,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

I would not like a leader so presumptuous as to say this when proclaiming her or his candidacy, nor giving an inaugural speech. Only Isaiah and Jesus could get away with that, in my book.

But I would like a leader who repeated this privately as a prayer at the beginning of every day in office, and before every meeting and every decision. It's good for leaders to be reminded, not just of their prophetic and pastoral roles, but of their responsibility to do what's right and best.

Note that Jesus left off God's vengeance from Isaiah's declaration, a sign not only of good editing, but of good politics. We've had too much vengeance and not enough favor from our politicians, as well as those who provide political commentary. True of religious leaders as well.

Of course only Jesus could dare to tell his listeners that "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Or maybe these words reflect the later judgment of his followers. Only history can vindicate any leader's judgment, so humility should be expected. Over my six and a half decades I have witnessed leaders with messianic pretensions fail even their avid fans. And here I mean leaders of every stripe: political, religious, moral, economic, you name it.

A similar humility is called for in the electorate. Our leaders reflect our own civic harmony or our own civic disarray. In reflecting on every candidate for office and every issue on the ballot, we may remind ourselves of our limited perspectives and grasp, seeking wisdom from our deepest thinkers and most experienced practitioners, not just our loudest and most commonly available opinionators. Above all, we must be guided by the compassion proclaimed in every faith and by many philosophies.

We too best begin every Election Day prayerfully meditating on the words of Isaiah read approvingly by Jesus so long ago:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because I have been anointed
to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to those without vision,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.