What is “a great moral leader”? President Trump recently claimed that description for himself. Is there some objective standard to measure such a claim? I’m not interested in passing judgment on the president. He, like everyone, will give an account of himself to the rightful judge of all, King Jesus, who “will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27). I’m thinking more in general terms; I think we’d all want our government, at every level, filled with great moral leaders. But then the question remains: what makes a great moral leader?
We could elevate particular individuals as standards of comparison, individuals we know are or were great moral leaders. As a Christian, we could easily bring Jesus into the discussion as the standard of excellent—even perfect—moral leadership. But everyone shrinks under that standard. The Bible lays out qualifications for leadership within churches, and those qualifications are primarily moral, and they’re meant to be recognized in ordinary, sinful people.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 list character qualities essential for someone given the responsibility of leading within a church. The two lists overlap but are probably not meant to be exhaustive. Nevertheless, I’d suggest that the apparent presence of these qualities in a person would certainly make that person a great moral leader. Besides the skill to teach the truths of Scripture, all of these qualifications are moral in nature. If qualities like being faithful in marriage, diligent in parenting, self-controlled, hospitable, and gentle marked our leaders, wouldn’t we be eager to trust and follow them?
These passages also mention a few qualities that should not characterize church leaders; they must not be quarrelsome, greedy, arrogant, or quick-tempered. Such people have good reputations and are irreproachable, meaning that it’s hard to bring accusations of misconduct against them. A great moral leader isn’t one who never fails or sins, though. A great moral leader is quick to admit mistakes, loves what is good, and pursues peace with people. Leaders, whether in the church, in business, or in government, would do well to cultivate these character qualities.
Mr. Justin Langley is Minister of Discipleship of Kilgore Bible Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.kilgorebiblechurch.org.