Be a Follower

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the newest installment to the wizarding world of Harry Potter. In it, the audience gets a closer look at the legendary Dumbledore in his youth as well as the complicated relationship with his nemesis, Grindelwald, and the political revolution he leads. The more we see of Grindelwald, the more we see that he is a harsh leader who leaves no room for his followers to question him. As protagonist Newt Scamander aptly puts it, “He doesn’t want to lead you. He wants you to follow.”

Having authority is not the same as being a leader. While certain individuals may have a large following, that does not make that person a worthy leader—one who has virtuous qualities like integrity, humility, empathy, and is self-sacrificing. Knowing he lacks these traits, Grindelwald tries to convince everyone that he is worthy of being the leader of the wizarding world via magic and deception. Dumbledore, on the other hand, is the kind of person who truly has these qualities—he is even asked to lead at times but refuses, knowing the weight that comes with being a leader.

The desire to be a good leader is one that resonates in today’s culture. Many grow up hearing the phrase that they should “be a leader, not a follower.” There are a plethora of social media influencers who have a significant following but few could claim the title of “leader” as Newt means it. Spiritual leaders are especially controversial—people like Deepak Chopra, the Dalai Lama, Joel Olsteen; or others like Teal Swan, who was featured in the docuseries The Deep End. They are people who welcome the audience and power that being a leader brings. Many believe that they have overcome the things that hold the average person down, making them worthy to lead others.

The difference in worldview between leaders like these and that of Christianity is that the Bible says everyone, regardless of whether they are a leader in the Christian faith or not, is a flawed human who will inevitably sin (Romans 3:23). God says that we all desperately need Christ because there is no everlasting reprieve without him (John 14:6).

The True “Worthy Leader”
Some may consider God to be like Gridelwald, thinking that he is a narcissistic leader who tells us to follow him. Worse, he asks us to take up our cross, the greatest struggles in our lives, and follow him. It seems that God, just like Grindelwald, only wants followers—people who will blindly follow a set of rules that, regardless of whether or not they came from the God of the universe, are bigoted and outdated. But the Bible tells us over three thousand times that it is the Word of God (eg. John 10:35; Hebrews 4:12). This is the God who created the universe and intricately designed each and every person—in love.

Far from being narcissistic, the Bible says that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). But what does that mean? How do we know that these things are true? Is he is truly a good God? C.S. Lewis thought that one of the most compelling arguments for God’s goodness was the fact that there is a Universal Moral Law, which he describes in Mere Christianity. He said that everyone in the world, despite their actions, knows innately what is right and wrong because God has written it on our hearts. Others find free will to be a compelling argument—that only a loving God would give us the innate ability to choose whether or not to follow him. And still others find the stories in the Bible that are filled with God’s love itself to be compelling—like the story of Jonah. Even though the Ninivites did horrible things, God still sent Jonah to tell them to repent because God didn’t want to destroy “Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals” (Jonah 4:11).

Still, all the evidence in the world for God’s goodness will not convince someone who wants to believe that God is bad. When faced with the darkness and difficulty of life, it is easier to believe that an all powerful God must be evil. How could he let so much bad happen? What is harder to see is that much of the world’s darkness is found in our own sin-corrupted hearts and the fallen world we inhabit.

The Fallout of Sin
Sin has made it so that even the best people in the world can never completely fulfill the universal moral law. Due to our brokenness, we naturally and freely tend to go towards sin rather than God’s calling. Our fallen state has made it so that we cannot love people like God does. Because of all these shortcomings and more, we can never save ourselves. This means that the best leaders in the world will fall short of being the leader we truly need, just like Grindelwald.

It is not a bad thing to want to be a leader. There are countless examples of people who God has made leaders (Judges 6:11-16). The book of Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7), emphasizing the content of their leadership and their character. The problem comes when leaders lead based on what they think is best in contrast to the way set forth by Jesus. Some may offer aid that will genuinely help people. But only God’s help is supremely good—only he can lead us to a flourishing, eternal life.

Our Returning God
The greatest comfort comes when we realize how deep God’s love for us truly goes. It is the kind of love that goes out to save us from the greatest danger and is able to come back for us, even after it has been dashed to pieces. The shocking thing is that God chooses to come back for us: this is what Christ has done. God is such a loving leader that he sent his only Son to die so that the rift between us and him could be bridged. This is where God’s perfect love and justice meet—Jesus paid the price for the world’s sin on the cross. But he overcame it by defeating death and coming back for us so that we could have a relationship with God again.

Seeing a character like Grindelwald shows us what a true narcissistic, bigoted leader looks like. He cares only for himself, unwilling to sacrifice for those who follow him. In order to appear worthy he has to use deception, hiding the wrongs he has done. But God uses no deception, we see his character throughout the whole Bible. He doesn’t hide the complicated things he has done from us. He puts it all on display so that we can see the justice that only a loving God can bring.

A good leader doesn’t stray from what is right because it is hard. Jesus lived this out for us first hand. He didn’t leave us alone to be destroyed by our sin. He is the leader we can trust and be proud to follow.

By Rebecca Sachaj

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Rebecca Sachaj

Rebecca Sachaj is enthusiastic about helping fellow believers deepen their relationship with God. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, she pursued further study in Apologetics through The Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She plans to obtain her Masters in Apologetics, focusing on the connection between the Christian Imagination and Apologetics. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her two dogs, Strider and Samwise.