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The Seduction of Public Leadership: Principles of Morality for Christian Leaders, by Stephen M. King

A second primary area of David’s successes before Bathshebagate revolved around his garnering and maintaining public support, personal friendships, and political loyalties, particularly after his conquest of Goliath. David was showered with praises by the Israelite women; he developed strong personal relationships with Jonathan, Saul’s son, his own band of guerrilla fighters, and Achish, an older mentor. Above all else, he maintained strong professional ties, especially with Joab, his army general; with Ahithophel, his private counsel (at least until he abandoned David to conspire with Absalom); and with Zadok, David’s trusted friend and faithful priest. Some of these relationships were extended to David in part for selfish gain, such as with Joab. Others, however, such as with Zadok and Jonathan, were established and maintained over time.

Bathshebagate; however, interrupted David’s political and military successes, as well as his personal life and relationships; it became a notable point of crisis, a point which tested the true moral identity and character of David. How did he respond to this test? What kind of leader was David after Bathshebagate? How does Bathshebagate, and more importantly David’s response to the political crisis, help us evaluate modern day political scandals and leaders, and their ability to lead (or not lead) after the advent of a crisis?

Bathshebagate included a sexual tryst and murder; Watergate included deceit, lies, and criminal charges of obstruction of justice; and Clintongate involves alleged abuse of presidential authority through an adultress affiar with a 25 year old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Each of these leadership crisises points involved a pattern, a cycle, if you will: 1) the commission of sin or criminal act; 2) confrontation of the sin or crime; 3) confession and repentance of sin or crime, or the denial of sin or crime; and 4) the suffering of consequences of the sin or crime, the severity of which is largely determined by the action of the person involved, that is, whether he confessed and repented, or whether he denied any part or action in the sin or crime (i.e. he tried covering up). A cursory examination of each crisis will reveal this cycle in action, and show that long-term negative effects upon the stability and continued effectiveness of leadership are enacted.

Bathshebagate occurred when David’s military and political successes were at their zenith. He endured the deaths of both his friend, Jonathan, and his former king, Saul, and was able to re-establish himself among the people as the anointed ruler who was to replace Saul. David’s powerful yet friendly personality, shrewd and politically wise decisions, and his overall multiplicity of roles contributed to his profound humanness. David reached the pinnacle of public leadership success, yet succumbed to the lustful side of human passions—in this case adultery and finally murder before he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. Let us first look briefly at the events of Bathshebagate, and then turn our attention to modern day crises.

Instead of doing what Middle Eastern kings of this day did—leading his army into battle—David opted to stay behind. David goes up on the roof of his palace; his sees a lovely young lady, unattired, bathing on her own rooftop. Propriety might have dictated that the king divert his gaze and see to it that he not succumb to lustful cravings. Alas, he looks, he stares, and he lusts. At this point, the religious reader is inclined to wag his head in scornful contempt at such a salacious activity and conclude that David has, at this moment, fallen from grace. He has committed adultery of the heart. After all, the scriptures say, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already in his heart.” But we must realize, when it comes to King David, that we are dealing with ancient Hebrew culture, and unlike the Greek where lust indicates a mental process, to the Hebrew mind it is only the intent to carry out a specific action that is under scrutiny. It is simple: a man first sees, then converts thought into intention, and carries intention out physically. It is not the thought itself that is sin, but it is the intention—the plotting and planning to carry it out. And this, according to Jewish tradition, is where David failed.

Failing to induce Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to sleep with his wife so as to hide David’s sin, he now plots Uriah’s death. As commander-in-chief, David sends Uriah to the front line of battle, knowing that he will not return alive. David’s lust is his action, and his action is his lust. For in his plotting to cover-up a sexual encounter with Bathsheba, he has become, in point of fact, a conspirator to murder, and engaged in the propensity to lie in order to hide his actions.

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Category: Ministry

About the Author: Stephen M. King, Ph.D. (University of Missouri-Columbia), is Associate Dean of Academics, Chair of Department of Government, History, and Criminal Justice, and Professor of Government at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is the author of God and Caesar: The Biblical Keys to Good Government and Community Action (Xulon Press, 2002) and co-author with Bradley S. Chilton of Administration in the Public Interest: Principles, Policies, and Practices (Carolina Academic Press, 2009), as well as writing and being a contributor to numerous books and articles about Christian faith and politics, administrative ethics, public management, and public policy. In addition to his extensive background as an educator, he has experience in pastoral ministry and overseas mission work. Regent University Faculty Page.

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