Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Recently, I was sent a video link to a “TED talk” given by Simon Sinek. Sinek very ably discussed his views about “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.” Even though I didn’t agree with his evolutionary foundation of Darwinian mutual trust and cooperation (there are some chilling historical examples of evolutionary trust and cooperation), I really did appreciate his emphasis on what good leadership really is and how it can profoundly impact an organization for the good.
As his centerpiece example, Sinek tells us the story of the heroism of CAPT William Swenson of the U.S. Army who displayed his bravery while conducting ground operations in the Ganjgal Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on September 8, 2009. As a result of a Taliban ambush, Swenson’s unit came under heavy fire and sustained numerous casualties. During the battle, Swenson had repeatedly disregarded his own personal safety to go into the fray of battle to retrieve the wounded and the fallen. He was eventually awarded the highest military award, the Medal of Honor, in October of 2013 by President Barack Obama (see link below).
Sinek was struck by a video clip (see link below) captured by a helicopter corpsman where Swenson is seen placing one of his wounded soldiers on the medevac helicopter. Swenson then leans over and kisses him on the forehead. Sinek goes on to discuss the passionate servant leadership of Swenson in that he cares so much for the men under his charge that he repeatedly risks his life trying to make sure that he is safe. If that is not enough, Swenson is observed displaying his affection outwardly on the video. Sinek further discusses how business leaders can foster a truly warm and nurturing environment for their employees that enables them to excel in their business endeavors. So what does this have to do with the Christmas Story?
As I was contemplating Swenson’s heroism, I realized that it didn’t happen by accident meaning that Swenson (and many thousands of soldiers for that matter) made the decision that placed him in a position to eventually display his heroism. Swenson made a decision to join the military and complete the required training to become an active duty military officer. He made the decision to board a plane that took him into the theater of battle. In other words, if Swenson had not made these decisions, he would not have been in the position to rescue his fallen comrades on that fateful day. He decided to go. Isn’t that true of Jesus Christ? More on this a little later.
In addition to Swenson’s heroism, I think of the fallen heroes around us. I think of the many first responders who have repeatedly put themselves in danger for the good of others. As we well know, many of them have given the ultimate sacrifice out of love for their communities. I think of my comrades with the U.S. Marshals Service who have displayed their gallantry by dying in the line of duty. Deputy U.S. Marshals Chase White (2018), Christopher Hill (2017), Patrick Carothers (2016), John Perry (2011), and Derek Hotsinpiller (2011) all gave their lives protecting their communities. These courageous lawmen made the decision to join the USMS and to undergo the required training. Next, they made the decision every day to place their lives in jeopardy by going out in the field and hunting for dangerous criminals. Each one of these heroes made the decision to go into our communities to protect us from those who would victimize us. So what does this have to do with the Christmas Story?
In Philippians 2:5-8, the Apostle Paul, describes how Christ Jesus emptied himself. Even though he was God, he humbled himself taking on the likeness of man (v. 7). If taking on a lower form was not enough, Jesus humbled himself “by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross! (v. 8).” Jesus Christ came as a baby in humble circumstances. He made a choice to come to the earth in this way. If He had not decided to do this, then he would not have been in the position to live a perfect life, to minister like he did, and also to give the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of humanity. As a songwriter once penned, “he was born to die.” In that he made this decision to come, Jesus led from the front. Not only does Jesus secure our eternal destinies, but he gives an example of how we can selflessly lead those around us. I appreciate Sinek’s talk on authentic and self-sacrificing leadership. I appreciate CAPT Swenson’s wartime heroism and the sacrifice of our first responders. I am also so grateful that Jesus took on the form of human flesh for the good of so many for whom he died. Even as we celebrate Christmas today, I recognize Jesus because he led (and still leads) from the front!
Merry Christmas! Ross