Our home was filled with leadership books. They were left on bedside tables, stuffed in briefcases, and alphabetized near the theology section of our home library. As a young businessman and civic leader, Dad devoured anything that helped him wrap his mind around his growing responsibilities. As his only son and namesake, I followed suit. By the time I graduated high school, I could quote John Maxwell and Peter Drucker like a seasoned executive.
Then we hit forty or forty-five and realize that life is suddenly half over. We are forced to look at our paltry list of accomplishments, to concede our lack of skills, to admit our increasing weariness, to acknowledge our decreasing strength, and to face the fact that we won’t do nearly what we thought we would do. We won’t be remembered among the greats. We won’t be the subject of biographies. We won’t change the world. Our hearts begin to echo the despairing cry of the Sage: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
It’s easy to slip into unbalanced, one-directional leadership when we’re driven by fear—fear of a bad trajectory and the fear of losing status. We looked at these fears in detail last week. When you issue unpopular warnings against dangers that come from the opposite direction than what you and your followers are used to, you open yourself up to the charge that you’re going soft on the dangers you warned about beforehand. People question your soundness because you appear to be lending at least a little credence to concerns from people not in “your camp.”
God will pay the ransom himself in order to receive us back to himself. He has done this through Christ, who is our ransom, as we see in texts like Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But this angle on the atonement has always raised the sticky question: To whom is the ransom paid?