Many of you, I am sure, like me, will have been sickened and outraged at the almost daily revelations of drunken parties and social gatherings, or should I use the more euphemistic term ‘work events,’ emanating from the very upper echelons of government, at a time when we were all in strict, covid enforced lockdown. For me, the wild revelry at the heart of government on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral was particularly shaming. The initial findings of the Sue Gray report have made it very clear that the rule makers have become the rule breakers par excellence. This is especially galling as we have all made huge sacrifices over the last couple of years, with many of us having missed milestone life events. How many of us could not celebrate a special birthday, attend a wedding or the funeral of a close friend or relative? How many of us could not see our elderly parents or visit a loved one in hospital? How many of us felt an intense sense of loneliness or isolation as our social contacts were banned by law? Even although our worship at St Stephen’s continued on zoom, we were forbidden from meeting as a Christian family in our church building. 

Those trying to defend the indefensible have used the spurious argument that there are far more important issues we should be concentrating on; the worrying situation in Ukraine, the looming cost of living crisis, the disparity between the rich and the poor. I agree. There are more important things we should be discussing. This is not about being ambushed by a cake or having a glass of wine at the end of the working day. This is about integrity, honesty, and leadership. Without them, there can be no trust and no good governance. 

The Bible makes it clear that honesty and integrity are central to good leadership. Four of the ten commandments deal with honesty and integrity. In Proverbs 12:22 we read

“The Lord detests lying lips but He delights in men who are truthful”

and in Proverbs 19:1 (ESV) we learn

“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.”

1 Timothy 3:2-5 defines a leader as follows,

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

If we want to see an example of good leadership, we need look no further than our Lord Jesus Christ. During his short time on earth, he always practiced what he preached. He was integrity personified. There was never one rule for him and one rule for others. There was not one word, command or teaching that he was not willing to do himself. His messaging was clear and consistent. Repent and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) There were no U-turns or attempts to pamper to the populist culture of the time, no attempt to water down the message to make it easier to accept, no attempt to backtrack or cover up what he just said. 

I would hate you to think I am a ‘party-pooper.’ I am all for celebrating but let us celebrate God’s infinite goodness to us and the gift of His Son, who through his love and self-sacrifice is the example of perfect leadership and paradigm of honesty and integrity. If Paul could celebrate the joy of knowing the Lord from a prison cell, then so can we, no matter where we find ourselves and regardless of any covid restrictions or lockdowns. Let’s celebrate! 

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs … For the Lord is good and His love endures for ever, His faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100 v 1-5

[from Michael Chittleburgh]

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