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Imperfect LeadersB90+ Day 2


Imperfect Leaders

We want perfect leaders. We expect those who guide us—whether president or priest, principle or parent—to do everything right. We have replaced the appropriate desire for excellence with demands for perfection. Once a leader faulters in today’s media-driven society, that person’s flaws and failures are placed in the public spotlight. The critique and condemnation of our public officials has become a national pastime, almost a new sport. The problem is, we all lose in the end. As the old adage says, "As goes the leader, so go the people."

Why this insistence for perfecting those at the top? One might think it was derived from the Bible, the book that provided the moral backbone for our culture. In truth, the pages of Scripture show us another way. The Bible is a thousand year-long narrative of imperfect leaders trying to find their way. Even the three great patriarchs of Israel had their flaws. We can learn key insights from their lives to gain a more realistic perspective on leadership today.
Coaching Tip: For this 90-day reading of the Bible, it is important to keep a good pace and not be distracted. Imagine trying to set a hiking record by veering off the trail every few minutes. As you read, it may help to take note of topics and themes you want to pursue later, but don’t veer off course. Keep on reading!


You have 2 reading options: read the Full selection of Scripture, or a single Overview chapter for each day.


When we read Genesis 16-28, it becomes clear that even God’s respected servants are far from perfect. Abram conspires with his wife Sarai to treat their Egyptian maid, Hagar, harshly; they later drive her out of their home. Abram’s nephew, Lot, offers his two innocent daughters as a shield to protect his guests from a gang of wicked men. On two different occasions Abraham lies about his wife Sarah, claiming her to be his sister to save his own skin at the peril of her own safety. Perhaps learning from his father’s example, Isaac does the same thing with his wife, Rebekah. Isaac and Rebekah play favorites between their two sons who eventually struggle for prominence. With Rebekah’s encouragement, Jacob steals his brother’s blessing.
For each of these stories we might attempt to come up with a defense of the leader’s actions based on circumstances. Yet does not the cumulative effect of three generations of patriarchs remind us that even the great founders and early leaders of God’s people were far from perfect? We learn from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that the key to a leader’s success is not absolute perfection, but a willingness to learn and to grow from one’s mistakes. The people in the Bible who become instruments of God to lead others are those who walk humbly, trusting God, and being open to correction. Abraham, for example, was considered righteous by God because he was willing to obey God—even to the point of sacrificing his own son. Isaac, the sacrificial gift, was spared, and became a prototype of the sacrifice God our Father would offer us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Despite his mistakes, Abraham is recognized by Jews and Christians alike as the father of our faith (Romans 4:16). So it was with Isaac, who did not accomplish any spectacular feats yet received the promises first given to Abraham. Jacob was less than stellar in his life’s journey; nevertheless, God renamed him Israel, which means “an overcomer with God” or “a prince with God” (Genesis 32:28). This tendency in the Bible to show people as they are, warts and all, is a subtle yet powerful evidence that the Bible is inspired by God. When we humans write our own stories, we tend to make ourselves look great and gloss over our mistakes. 
Let us remember that to some extent we are all leaders. Leadership may be defined simply as influence; we each influence others for good or for bad. Let us then humble ourselves and be willing to receive correction. In this way we can pursue excellence but not demand the impossible of ourselves: ongoing and absolute perfection. And then maybe, just maybe, we can remind the world around us that God is in the habit of giving us imperfect leaders.


1. What insights can you draw from 1 Timothy 2:1-6 about our responsibility to pray for those who influence our lives as leaders?

2. What is likely to occur if an entire society becomes so negative about leaders that they refuse to respect them altogether?

3. Prayerfully consider any changes you will make in your own way of thinking, talking, and acting toward leaders. Write down specific commitments you will make in this regard.


Lord, help me to pray more often for those in leadership. Forgive me for the times I have latched onto the cultural tendency to criticize and condemn leaders rather than seeking to discern and to pray for correction and improvement. Help me to see that because I am a leader to someone, that I need to humbly focus first and foremost on striving for excellence in my own life before I criticize others.


Leadership is influence. You can influence others through these daily B90+ posts. How? By giving us your feedback. Or by sharing them with others. Or by forming a group of friends and facilitating discussion about your read through the Bible.
Congratulations on completing Day 2 of B90+. Even though this is a long journey, it's so worth it! We'll be waiting for you tomorrow as we take our next steps through Genesis. BUY B90
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