Paul’s Advice to Young Leaders

20 September 2007. Memorial of Andrew Kim Taegon and martyrs
1 Timothy 4, 12-16 Young Leaders

There is a cultural and moral norm that we should respect the old. They have lived more than us, and they have learned a lot from their lives. This is indeed true. However, they also do not possess the whole truth. Truth also resides in the young. Timothy was a young leader compared to the elders. Paul tells us that the older Christians need to see that the younger generation also have great gifts. They also know the truth and they will be able to preach it. The older generation should not despise Timothy by reason of age, but should recognize and listen to the voice of the young.

The Philippines recognizes the importance of the young. Our Constitution states: “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs” (Article II, Section 13).

The contribution of the youth in Philippine history is a record of youthful aspirations for reform: Jose Rizal published, Noli Me Tangere, when he was 25 years old. Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto were in their twenties when they organized armed resistance against Spain, thus founded the Katipunan. Emilio Aguinaldo was 29 when the flag of the First Philippine Republic was raised in 1889, assuming the presidency of the Republic. In th 1970s, organized youth movements were mobilized against Martial Law and a repressive regime. People power in 1986 was noteworthy as a peaceful revolution led mainly by the young who provided mass and logistical support.

In the first reading, Paul gives advice to Timothy — and thus to youth leaders — in order for them to be credible not just to the elders but to the community. Credibility may well be one of the most difficult attributes to earn and easiest to lose. The qualities are the following:

First, speech: What a Christian says is important, but not just what we say, but how we say it (Ephesians 4, 25 & 29). People rely on our word, and thus, we do what we say we will do. We keep our promises, follow through our commitments, and articulate the aspirations of people. Our word and actions are consistent with the wishes of the people they lead.

Second, our life and lifestyle. By our actions do leaders establish morale and integrity. Their values are consistent with their values of the people they lead and with their lifestyle.

Third, compassion for the people. There is genuine love for their welfare. St. Ignatius would add that personal care is important. We get to appreciate their work; grieve when a family member passes away; and celebrate on their birthdays and anniversaries.

Fourth, faith. As religious leaders, when we talk about faith, we know what it is. It would be better to even articulate our spiritual struggles with them.

Finally, generosity. Any gift God has bestowed on us, must be used for others and the community. This presupposes that we know what we have in order for us to give. We cannot give what we do not have. But these gifts should be cared for.

These qualities are important when one is chosen by God to lead his people. And God may chose whoever, in whatever way. Abraham was old and Timothy was young when God asked a favor. And when He does, we never say no.

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