Does the Price of Security Bankrupt Our Humanity?
~The Fugitive and the Minister~
One day a young fugitive, trying to hide himself from the enemy, entered a small village. The people were kind to him and offered him a place to stay. But when the soldiers who sought the fugitive asked where he was hiding, everyone became very fearful. The soldiers threatened to burn the village and kill every person in it unless the young man was handed over to them before dawn. The people went to the Minister and asked him what to do. Torn between handing over the boy to the enemy and having his people killed, the Minister withdrew to his room and read his Bible, hoping to find an answer before dawn. In the early morning, his eyes fell on these words: “It is better that one man dies than that the whole people be lost.” Then the Minister closed the Bible, called the soldiers, and told them where the boy was hidden. And after the soldiers led the fugitive away to be killed, there was a feast in the village because the Minister had saved the lives of the people. But the Minister did not celebrate. Overcome with a deep sadness, he remained in his room. That night an angel came to him and asked, “What have you done?” He said: “I handed over the fugitive to the enemy.” Then the angel said: “But don’t you know that you have handed over the Messiah?” “How could I know?” the Minister replied anxiously. Then the angel said: “If, instead of reading your Bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known.”
- Adapted from “The Wounded Healer” (1979), pp. 25-26
Like the minister, who would have recognized the Messiah if he cared to look into the young man’s eyes, we are challenged to look into the eyes of people who are experiencing institutional evils such as systemic racism, discrimination, police brutality, etc. Maybe, that would be enough to prevent us from handing them over to the enemy and empower us to protect the image of God in them.
This kind of courage comes at a cost, however. It challenges the territory of our comfort/security zone. It requires us to be leaders who speak and act against injustice, inequality, and racism. Henri Nouwen writes that everyone is involved in some form of leadership. At its core, leadership is an encounter between two people. In this encounter, we are involved in leading one another from point to point, from viewpoint to viewpoint, and from one conviction to the other. Nouwen adds, “Nobody can offer leadership to anyone unless he makes his presence known—that is, unless he steps forward out of the anonymity and apathy of his milieu and makes the possibility of fellowship visible.”
It’s difficult for me to talk about leadership without mentioning Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection. Nouwen adds that the basic principles of Christian leadership are a personal concern, faith in the value of life, and the ability to impart hope for tomorrow. These principles are rooted in the conviction that, since God has become human, humans can lead fellow humans to freedom.
Journal Activity/Personal Reflection
1) In what way does the story of the minister and the fugitive speak to you?
2) How can you be a leader that speaks and acts against injustice, inequality, and racism? In what ways will this type of leadership affect your comfort/security zone?
3) How do you live out the principles of Christian leadership mentioned by Nouwen?
Nouwen, Henri J. M. The Wounded Healer. New York: Doubleday (An Image Book), 1979.