Wise and Courageous Leadership
The Ephesian city clerk was wise. He was a real leader. In the midst of an unjust riot against two Christians, Gaius and Aristarchus, the clerk took a bold stand. There is no indication this man was a follower of Christ, so I take it that his intercession was the result of God’s special grace, while his wisdom and leadership was the fruit of common grace. As John Maxwell says, “leadership is influence,” and this man certainly had it.
First, he connected with the “Men of Ephesus” by recalling for them the ego-stroking perspective that the entire world knew Ephesus was the “guardian of the temple of the great Artemis…” At this point he reminded them that the whole world knew of their important position, as well as the respect such a position held. Then, he cleverly inserted a “therefore” to indicate that such an honored position in the
world required decorum and order. This unnamed man saw the injustice against the two Christians and was not going to allow it.
He told the mob these men had committed no crime or wrong doing at all. Message to crowd: Refined and respected citizens of Ephesus ought not behave like uncouth and uncivilized barbarians. Moreover, his rhetoric seemed to suggest that because they were so refined and civil, they could rightfully address any legitimate grievances with the local legal authorities. He told them if they continued in such unrest, they themselves would be the transgressors of civility and the law. Chalk one up for the city clerk.
After making his case he dismissed the crowd. And Acts 20:1 gives evidence that he must have succeeded in his efforts. The text reads, “When the uproar ended…” It is gratifying to see God’s common grace alive and well in the lives of unbelievers, even more so in the lives of unbelieving leaders. I wonder how many Christian leaders placed in a similar situation would have handled it as well.
There are many lessons to be learned from this historical snapshot of an anonymous Ephesian city clerk, but I want to highlight one in particular.
It’s worth noting the clerk didn’t bend and bow to the mob’s desires in an effort to gain favor with them. That’s sometimes my personal failing. The idea of putting a finger to the wind to see which direction it is blowing is all too tempting to those of us who loathe confrontation. But that’s not leadership, it’s cowardice. It’s the fear of man, not the fear of God. There is no character or integrity in such weakness. The city clerk chose to do what was right, even in the face of possible opposition.
How many times has a Christian pastor backed down from a position (even a God-ordained one) because of pressure from the mob? To be sure, no one ought to die on every single hill that comes along, but there are some principles (convictions and/or values) that should be tenaciously held to – ones that should yield no quarter.
My children don’t always know what’s good for them. They would be content to eat nothing but junk food for the next five years. But that would be harmful to them. I’ve been entrusted to shepherd them, and shepherd them I must. Sometimes, adults aren’t much farther down the road than children, especially when the mob mentality is at work.
God-appointed leaders must exercise wisdom and courage in such situations. For though it is often true that, “all of us are smarter than one of us,” and that many counselors may surely provide good advice, that is not always the case, as the episode in Ephesus reveals. The city clerk was able to make the distinction (wisdom) and acted on what he knew was right and best (leadership).
Whether you are the shepherd of a family, business, classroom, or church, pray for God to give you the same character and willingness to exercise godly leadership as God gave to that anonymous city clerk.
In what areas of your life are you a leader? How do you usually handle confrontation? Read Acts 19:35-41. Besides the points made in this devotion, what are some other lessons you learn about leadership from this text? How can the lesson(s) you learned in this text help you exercise leadership in the areas God has entrusted to your care? As a follower of Christ, what else can you do to help you lead that the unbelieving clerk could not do?
Grace and Truth,
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