Was watching an episode of West Wing tonight with my son, Jonathan. I’ve got a feeling most of it passed over little Jonny’s head given that he’s only 2 weeks old today, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you.

The episode was called ‘Disaster Relief’ (episode 6, Season 5) and in it President Bartlet responds to a disaster in Oklahoma. He’s persuaded to personally visit the disaster site by his press secretary, C.J. Cregg, though as his visit starts to move beyond the 6 hours planned (they end up being 20+ hours over schedule) C.J. is less than impressed.

Why?

It comes down to her view of leadership.

Her reason for wanting Bartlet to visit was to show the country that the President cares about people. But as he starts to spend time just listening to people’s stories, even stooping so low as to help with the washing up, C.J. is uncomfortable with what this is saying. She impresses upon him that he must be first out at the memorial service – she wants a President who ‘leads’, who is strong, who is at the front, not one who washes pots and pans.

It was very hard not to think of a certain other washing episode 2000 years ago, and I wonder if that was in the minds of the writers for this episode.

There Jesus shows us what it means to lead – it means to serve.

A very different picture to the kind of leader that C.J. wants.

And it is interesting how people struggle with this view of leadership. Not only is it difficult to do it (to humble oneself, to become the refuse of the world etc etc), but I think people struggle with leaders who actually do it. It may sound bizarre but I’ve certainly found that. There’s something comfortable and compelling about the man at the front doing the business. And there’s something profoundly uncomfortable about your leader getting down on his hands and knees and cleaning your grubby feet. Peter certainly found that to be the case.

Why do we struggle with it?

Perhaps because of what we aspire to, and so what it says we should do.

Perhaps because we want someone who we can point to, someone who others will be impressed by, and therefore impressed with us by association. That certainly seems to be the issue the Corinthian church struggled with.

Well – there’s some thoughts on a Saturday night. I’ll let you know if Jonathan has anything to add…

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