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Responding to Bad Leaders

How do you deal with bad leaders? Do you just get upset at them? Do you harbor a grudge, or speak evil about them? Most Americans today have a problem with authority (including vast numbers of us who do not think that we do!). We all know that it is fairly easy to follow and obey good leaders. Those who are considerate enough to speak to us with gentle clarity are quite easy to take commands from (even if the commands are not great).

Think, however, about those bad leaders who do more to cause harm than to cause good. In yesterday's Old Testament reading for Mass, the Lord calls the leaders of Jerusalem, "the rulers of Sodom", and the citizens the, "people of Gomorrah". In other words, their sins are of the same nature as those two destroyed cities. Of all the titles to be given to the people of God, calling them "Sodom and Gomorrah" is very condemning.

They were clearly evil. Therefore, in the Gospel reading for yesterday, Jesus makes it clear for us how we are to respond to evil rulers. "Observe whatever they tell you" is what our Lord says. In other words (excepting, of course, sinful commands), the Lord wants us to be examples of humble obedience even in the face of bad leadership. Regardless of how bad a ruler is, if he tells us to do something good, we have no right to reject all they say because of their sinful behavior.

This is why we are supposed to show respect to everyone, regardless of whether they have earned that respect. If someone commands us to do something sinful, then, of course, we are not to obey. Yet it is far too easy to dismiss someone because we do not like their leadership. I have heard many stories of people willing to disobey a priest because they did not like him. This is not what we are called to. They will be judged for their disobedience and bad leadership, but that does not give us freedom to be just as rebellious in our response to them.


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