Leaders like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini led their nations by what seemed at times to be sheer force of will and personality. Normal, everyday people were moved to support genocide and war by following their “great leaders.” Notable exceptions such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt aside, the “great leaders” of the 20th century left behind little but death and ruin.
More than 70 years later we must ask ourselves: Has much really changed in how human beings view the men and women who lead them? Have the tragedies of the 20th century taught us anything about choosing wise and just leaders?
A quick survey of many of the world’s most influential nations and leaders—Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, among others—will show us that we are as susceptible as ever to charismatic “great leaders” who do not understand the way of peace. While the West has been largely an exception to this phenomenon, how long can we expect that to hold true?
Jesus Christ described this hard truth of corrupted human nature well. Instructing His disciples, He told them: “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people’” (Luke 22:25, New Living Translation 2015). He knew all too well that human nature seeks to have dominion over others and that the nations, in their blindness, would appoint harsh rulers to their own hurt.
None of the world’s forms of government can change this. Only the return of Jesus and the establishment of the Kingdom of God will save us from ourselves. Read about the hope we all share in our free study guide The Gospel of the Kingdom.