“Biblical Leadership St Simon Peter, God’s Wayward Leader” is an essay by Simon Yeak, Salvation History, 24th Feb 2018. Published with permission.
This paper will explore the theme of ‘Biblical Leadership’ and in particular why God selects certain individuals to become His leaders. A running theme in the Bible is that many who are called to positions of leadership are first found to be of wayward nature and seem questionable as to why God would call such individuals to such an office. This begs to question, why does God choose certain unqualified and broken individuals to lead his people? The paper will answer this by using the life of St Simon Peter as an example and why he was chosen to lead. From understanding his story, it will become evident that God chooses broken sinners with a repentant nature, despite their ongoing struggles and lack of faith, to demonstrate His mercy and grace have the power to transform them into leaders of His people.
One of the most notable individuals in the Bible that God calls to leadership is Simon, son of John, who is aware of his brokenness and thus exhibits a repentant nature. Being a fisherman, he first encounters Jesus by the lake and is told to lower his nets despite a whole night of catching nothing (Luke 5:2-5). After doing so, the amount caught cannot fit into the boat and realising that this man is of God, he falls to the feet of Jesus telling him to leave as he is unworthy (Luke 5:8). Jesus persists to have him become his follower. This insight of Simon Peter proves important that despite being an uneducated fisherman he is called by Jesus to follow him, not because of his knowledge but due to his repentant nature in that he knows he is a sinful man with a past. It is this mercy offered by Jesus that this broken individual would persistently need to carry him through. Another example of Simon Peter’s unqualified nature due to lack of faith occurs at the Sea of Galilee when walking on water towards Jesus he begins to sink, having placed his faith in his own capabilities above the power of God (Matthew 14:29-30). Jesus confirms this by saying his faith is little (Matthew 14:31). Through these first few examples of Simon Peter, God chooses those who are willing to repent, despite their sinful past or misplaced little faith, in order to demonstrate His love and power to overcome their brokenness.
Even after being chosen by God, biblical leaders still continued to struggle with sin but God persists in choosing them. For instance, the Gospels depict Simon Peter’s difficulty in following Jesus’ example of humility right after becoming a leader. When Jesus questions the Apostles what His true identity is, Simon Peter replies that He is the Son of God and the office of leadership is given to him (Matthew 16:13-19). Shortly after, Jesus indicates the nature in which He will perish and Simon Peter vehemently rejects that this will ever happen (Matthew 16:21- 22). He is immediately rebuked by Jesus and even called Satan, for setting his mind on worldly desires and not of God (Matthew 16:23). It is possible that the blessing of a high position may have had a prideful effect on Simon Peter, causing him to focus on himself instead of Jesus. Another example where he struggles with the sin of pride is during the Last Supper, where Simon Peter claims he would follow Jesus until the end (John 13:37. Seeing his heart, Jesus foretells his prideful downfall in that he would deny Him three times (John 13:38). Later, seeing his beloved Lord tortured and fearing public respect, he denies knowing Jesus and this three-time apostasy leads Simon Peter to weep bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75). Thus, even great leaders failed to love God and that it is God’s mercy alone that chooses the repentant soul that realises without Him, he can do nothing.
God’s leaders are at times the ones in need of His mercy the most, and He is willing to forgive them in order to show the depth of His mercy. This is what occurs by the Sea of Tiberias, after the Resurrection when Jesus appears to the Apostles (John 21:6). Later when they are eating, Jesus asks Simon Peter three times if he loves Him (John 21:15-17). By the third time, he feels the weight of sorrow for his three denials and says a third time that He knows that he loves Him (John 21:17). In this act of perfect contrition, Jesus forgives Simon Peter and entrusts him to lead His people. God calls broken individuals to do great things in His name to show that no one is beyond redemption. However, Simon Peter would still continue to make mistakes. St Paul mentions an occasion when Simon Peter would not eat with the Gentiles when in the company of Jewish visitors to maintain a public image (Galatians 2:11-14). This, of course, was hypocritical to the message of the Gospel he was preaching as God’s mercy extends to all people. By this point in his ministry, he would have learnt a great lesson in humility, that it is God alone that chooses His leaders to do His great work and that it is His mercy which continues to redeem them despite their weaknesses.
The life of St Simon Peter in the Gospels has shown that despite his fallen nature he carries a repentant heart, and God chooses such individuals to lead in the Bible showing that His mercy can overcome their shortcomings. Although he continues to struggle with sin as a leader, God persists in him having this responsibility no matter how many times he falls. At times leaders are the ones in most need of His mercy, and God is willing to forgive them. This shows that His mercy has the power to overcome any past sins. This is important because biblical leadership extends to all, and it is the same mercy and grace afforded to everyone that has the power to overcome any sinful nature. Much like St Simon Peter, the leaders of today are chosen, despite their weaknesses, in order to glorify God and be transformed to lead His people.