Responding to the Lack of Statesmen

Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The men who led the independence of the United States were men of courage and valor. They knew that separation from Great Britain would be for the good of the country. Lately, I have been contemplating the type of men who founded our country and those that lead our country now. The term statesman comes to my mind. I researched statesman and found some interesting things. A definition is a good place to start. A statesman is:

a respected, skilled and experienced political leader or figure. In most respects a statesman is the opposite of a politician. Politicians are thought of as people who will say or do anything to get elected or to gain power. A statesman is someone who does everything for the common good of the people he or she represents. To call a person a statesman is a mark of high regard for that person’s integrity. To call someone a politician usually implies the person is worthy of very little esteem.[1]  

A historical look at the concept of a statesman brings additional insight:

In 51 BCCicero published his work De re publica (On the Republic). The dialog was about what made a true statesman. It was about the virtues and ideals such a leader must have. Cicero wrote that a great statesman did not have to descend from aristocrats. But he must have virtus (virtue), iustitia (a sense of justice) and wisdom. He must also have dignitas (roughly translated as dignity), temperance and must show generosity and be magnanimous.[2]

Furthermore, Plato believed a statesman would educate the people and shape their character.[3] Aristotle shared a similar focus on character as revealed in his statement, “What the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions.[4] Clearly, good character emerges as an important element of a statesman.

When I think about the leaders of our country, it is hard to find leaders that would qualify as statesmen. Our country’s leaders seem to be more concerned with winning an election than in developing virtue (theirs or others). The focus on tearing down their opponents (ad hominem strategy-attacking an opponent’s character rather than their claim) and embellishing information (lying) to puff themselves up reveal a lack of virtue. The recent presidential debate provides an example of leaders who did not demonstrate much statesmanship. I was saddened to watch the disrespect the opponents displayed toward each other. The lack of mutual respect appears too often in political leaders. A statesman is a man of integrity, virtue, and diplomacy. A statesman would be gracious in how he talks of others.

How could a statesman affect our country? If our leaders treated opponents in a respectful way, it would set a tone for the rest of the country to be more amicable. We can disagree with people based on truths from God, but we can do it in a respectful manner. Also, I think more would be accomplished in our country for good as leaders worked together instead of against each other. Attacking a person instead of the issues is counterproductive. If leaders would consistently present facts, trust would be built. The leaders of our country would gain more respect and possibly more cooperation, as they acted in a more respectful, truthful manner.

So, what should believers do in response to this void of statesmen? God specifically commands us to pray for and be subject to our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2; Rom 13:1) Our part is to pray for those God has allowed to rule over us. We also should set a good example by showing respect to everyone and honoring emperors (leaders) (1 Pet 2:17). Watching what we think and say about leaders who lack the virtues of a statesman moves us more toward being like Christ. Ephesians 4:29 provides a command that is important to remember as we respond to leaders in our country, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

As I have reflected on the disappointment I have had over the past years of the growing lack of statesmanship in our country’s leadership, I am definitely saddened (and angered at times). However, God calls me to pray and respond in grace. How about you, would God say your response to our country’s leaders contains prayer and grace? If not, what would God have you change, by His power, to have a godly response?        

Image from American Battlefield Trust, accessed May 31, 2024, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/president-george-washington.

[1] “Statesman”, Wikipedia, accessed May 28, 2024, https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statesman.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Statesman”, AZ Quotes, accessed May 29, 2024, https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/statesmen.html.

PJ Beets is passionate about encouraging women and children through the Scriptures and life to see the compassionate God who redeems the rejected by acceptance, the silenced by expression, the labored by grace, and the lonely by love in order to set them free to serve in His ordained place and way for them individually and corporately. She has served the Lord through Bible Study Fellowship and her home church in various capacities with women and children. Upon turning fifty, she sought the Lord on how He would have her finish well which began her journey at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies as well as a Doctor of Educational Ministry in Spiritual Formation, both from from DTS. PJ is married to Tom, has three children, and six grandchildren.

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