My musings today are taken from the reading in Jonah a prophet sent to Nivevah to warn the people of that city against sudden destruction. “Forty more days and Ninevah will be overturned,” Jonah said. It is a beautiful story because Jonah had not wanted this assignment. He had actually run away from it. He ended up in a belly of a whale before being spat out onto dry land. In response to his message, all the people, from the greatest to the least responded to this message by humbling themselves. What stood out for me was the response of the leaders. These leaders, who heard the message after the common folk responded by putting in place a proclamation.
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
In this story, when the Lord saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
The leaders heard the message after the populace. They demonstrated an appropriate response with humility. In management, this would be referred to as the bottom-up approach. Through this story, leaders are encouraged to put in place mechanisms for receiving feedback from the bottom. Leaders may hold the vision but must be open to rebuke. They must also be ready to respond correctly. The ability to receive and appropriately respond to hard messages may save our families, communities, organizations and even nations.