My wife is not a fan of Tom Cruise. I see her point. It’s like his acting powers peaked in Top Gun (or maybe A Few Good Men), and all his subsequent movies have just been wardrobe changes.
But Simon Pegg (co-star in Mission Impossible) seems to have a bromance with Cruise. Whenever Pegg receives a text from Cruise, he shouts to his [unimpressed] wife, “Whoo hoo!” She says Tom Cruise is Simon’s “boyfriend.”
On set recently, Pegg admitted to screwing something up, and Cruise sternly charged him: “Simon, don’t do that. Don’t apologize.” Pegg continued,
If something goes wrong and it’s [Tom’s] fault, he’ll flatly deny it. And then if someone corrects him, instead of saying sorry, he’ll just say, “Yeah,” and wink at me.
Pegg said, “He maintains his authority by never being to blame for anything.”
Cruise Is Not So Different — He’s Not a Maverick
I would love to accuse Scientology for Cruise’s corrupt craving of authority, but I can’t. I recently met with two different Christian men who likewise refused to accept fault for their screw-ups.
The first man was a church-plant pastor who made a series of relational blunders, alienating some people while insulting others, and failing to abide by significant written agreements. He told me his story, but instead of admitting his failures, he said,
My church-plant coach told me to do those things. I just wish he had been smarter.
The second man helped lead a large prayer-group in the early 2000’s. Its leadership morphed into being overly controlling, emphasizing external doing over internal gospel-change, and teaching an unhealthy veneration of leaders. Instead of admitting to the dozens of damaging practices, he told me (somewhat proudly),
We did far more good than we did harm.
In all three examples, there is a grasping, clawing, and lusting for power instead of a humble acknowledgement of personal blame.
It’s not just the religious who do this. Politicians must invest in Teflon, the way they skate past all their past errors; and business leaders must invest in Kevlar, the way they dodge all the bullets of their own abhorrent business practices.
Do we really want to grant control to these kinds of power-hungry people?
Gospel Leadership … Bows
The disciples were infected by this same thirst for authority. They constantly argued about which of them is the greatest; James and John (and their mother!) ask Jesus to let them be the Big Cheeses when He becomes King; and Peter stabs all the disciples in the back when he says, “They may all leave you, but I never will.” (In four short hours, he publicly betrays Jesus.)
So who would you choose to lead the Church? Greedy James and John? Doubting Thomas? Or Cowardly Peter? Jesus chooses Peter. But not for the reasons we moderns elect our leaders.
After the resurrection, Jesus invites Peter to a breakfast of fish by the sea. Jesus asks him “Peter, do you really love me more than these other disciples do?” And Peter replies, “You (and You alone) know.” And Jesus says, “Feed and tend my sheep.” Jesus and Peter do this dance three times.
But when Jesus says, “Feed and tend my sheep,” He doesn’t suggest Peter dish out Cornflakes and Grape Nuts every morning. The words “feed and tend” mean to “lead and to shepherd.” Jesus is making Peter the church’s greatest leader despite Peter being its greatest betrayer.
Jesus didn’t choose Peter because of his outward worthiness or leadership potential. Quite the opposite! Jesus grants great spiritual authority on Peter for one reason, and one reason alone.
Peter becomes the greatest leader because Peter became the greatest repenter.
It’s the upside-down, counter-cultural nature of the Gospel. God doesn’t choose the “greatest,” or those with naturally good hearts, or those with pseudo-perfect track records. It’s always the humble, the “poor in spirit,” those who know their need of God; those who are amazed (more than anyone) that God would choose them. These are the people God picks to impact others.
The world doesn’t need any more Teflon politicians, Kevlar business leaders, or (especially) any more macho, “no flies on me” spiritual leaders.
God is looking for A Few Good Men and Women, and the single criteria is they become the greatest repenters. If they aren’t Top Gun, at least they are top drawer, spiritually speaking.
Thanks Sam. I needed this.
Actually … I did too!!
“The world doesn’t need any more Teflon politicians, Kevlar business leaders, or (especially) any more macho, ‘no flies on me’ spiritual leaders.”
With the kind of work I do, you know how much I agree with this one.
Hey there Mountain Man!
Thanks for your comment. I would have, could have, and should have guessed you’d agree.
Good post, as always.
I was taken by your emphasis on “repentance” and humility as the two characteristics of a “true spiritual leader”.
When I finished writing my somewhat autobiographical book,”Like Eating Jelly with Chopsticks”, I sent out a few draft copies to folks with whom I expected the book to resonate, including yourself.
I had asked for prepublication reviews.
I was surprised that my former school leader said ,”I cannot write a review..”
When I asked for explanation he said, “There is not enough repentance in it for me”?
In my learning of the New Covenant, I have found agreement that repentance is NOT groveling on my knees before God and sacrificing bulls, sheep, or whatever might be deemed valuable to God. Instead it is simply a “changing of my mind and heart”. Repentance in the New Covenant, as I understand it, is to give up old ways of thinking about God and my behavior and embrace a new way of thinking about who I am in Christ.
Thus repentance, in my new understanding, cannot be quantified. It must, rather, be defined as a new understanding of our identity. Our behavior will naturally follow from this.
You are accurate when you say Peter was chosen by Jesus because of his repentance and humility. Jesus saw that this man, who had been so stubborn and self centered, was now willing to adopt the identity Jesus had for him all along. May we all accept this “Christ centered change of mind and heart” that Jesus intends for all of us.
Yes, “May we have all this Christ centered heart.”
I think when we believe we have to “quantify” our repentance, we are giving the impression that the depth of our repentance is what wins forgiveness, instead of God’s kindness and grace. It is so much more life-giving to know that all God asks is that I call my sin what it is, acknowledge it was wrong, and rejoice that he is still calling me to repentance instead of giving up on me.
Really great point. It is not the the “quality” of what we do that deserves forgiveness. Is Ps. 51, David asks God to forgive him, “according to your loving kindness.”
And yet the entry into the kingdom is still an inner acknowledgement that self-salvation doesn’t work. And we don’t get that “inner acknowledgement” without His Holy Spirit bringing it about in our lives.
Thus, the real leaders we need (and God appoints) are the ones that draw life from Him (because He is in them), not the leaders who scratch and claw for “authority.”
We live in a society that shows no grace when people repent publicly. Therefore, it is easier to “apologize” without acknowledging we were wrong and hiding our wrongdoings until they are exposed by others. The church is as bad as society in this area which is why many Christians move to another church rather than seek forgiveness.
Really interesting comment. I’ve seen exactly what you mean, as though we need to live perfect lives or we cannot serve others. (And good luck with that!)
A friend emailed me with another take, sort of the opposite of what you write. She said she’s seen too much “repentance for show” (a phrase she got from a book). Sort of like the Sermon on the Mount’s praying, giving, fasting for show.
We need repentance, repentance from the heart, and we need to embrace the repenters, which can be really difficult. Too many of us think, “If they did it once, they’ll do it again.” Even though Israel kept David as King despite his adultery, cover-up, and murder.
Thanks for commenting,