Monday, July 11, 2011

The King's Speech

I finally found the time to watch “The King’s Speech.” What a wonderful movie! This flick makes you forget about where you are in life. It takes you across the pond, back in time, to a very dark and uncertain time. Today, times seem relatively less challenging in comparison. Then, England was facing an enemy unlike anything it had ever encountered. Germany was a fierce machine determined to destroy anything that got in the way of its desire for world domination. Times were desperate. The survival of a nation hung in the balance. The determining factor would come down to the question of leadership. Enter two sons of a King. Edward was the oldest of these sons and in line for the throne. Indeed, he ascended the throne for a short period. However, Edward was in love with a divorced woman and the King could never marry anyone with a divorce on her record. Edward had to make a decision. Would he be the servant leader and King he was designated to be or would he pursue his own interests? The movie portraited Edward as a self-absorbed rebel. He was more interested in his own agenda and his own pleasure than he was in serving the people. For the good King, nothing comes before the people. The King is one who speaks for the people. They are his people and he defends and protects them at all cost.

The Idea of a King

After his brother stepped aside, George took the throne. History tells us that he was a reluctant King. George recognized the seriousness of holding such a position of leadership. He wept in an emotional display of the inadequacy that overwhelmed him. Being king is indeed a sobering and daunting responsibility even in peaceful times. Enter Adolf Hitler and the German war machine and the task is enough to overtake the most courageous men in all of history. The situation was shaping up to be the most daunting task in modern times. And King George VI was being asked to do what no one before him had had to do. You see, the King is looked upon as the leader of his people. They look to the King to provide leadership in nearly every area of life. Kings influence a variety of behaviors from the most private thoughts to the most visible practices in society. He is not only the guide and leader of the society, but he is also a main source of that society’s strength. He is what the people look to for comfort and confidence. He shapes morality and exhibits the strength of that morality publicly. King George VI would be asked to stand face to face in opposition to one of the most gifted and skilled leaders of all time: Adolf Hitler. Hitler was and is still known for his skills as a master orator. He was able to rally the German people around his cause through his seductive speeches with great effectiveness. The English would compare the speaking power of their beloved King George VI with that of Hitler. However, King George VI had a severe stammering problem that he would have to overcome if he was going to prevail against his highly vocal and visible opponent. King George had something going for him that would cause him to rise to the occasion. King George VI was a man of the highest character. He was a man of integrity. He understood the difference between the King’s mission, and the King himself. This knowledge served as a great source of conviction that gave him the confidence he needed to face his speech impediment and overcome it. He did not conquer his problem to obtain personal gain or notoriety. He conquered it because he understood the fate of a nation and perhaps the world were at stake. His Kingship was not about him. It was about something far greater.

The Power of Speech

Speech Act Theory is one of the most fascinating areas of study I have ever looked at. The idea is that by speaking, we are doing something. There are three components of speech act theory: locution, illocution, and perlocution. Locution is the simple utterance that is made while illocution is the act that is accomplished in the utterance. For example: I will give you a dollar if you shake my hand. The utterance itself is simple locution. From an illocutionary standpoint, I have made a promise. From a perlocutionary standpoint, I want to affect your behavior. My perlocutionary intent is to get you to shake my hand. In many, many instances, our speech to others is aimed at changing them in some way. For King George VI, the perlocutionary intent was to inspire people to rise to the occasion in attitude and behavior to respond with tenacity to the threat they were facing at the time. He wanted to inspire, encourage, warn, motivate, prepare, and move his people to accept the challenge they were facing. He knew hardship was coming. He knew war would likely be waged in their own backyard. He recognized that a mental toughness unlike anything this generation was use to would be required to meet the challenge. His words would be more important than ever. It would be both what he said AND how he said it. There are children, mothers, grandmothers, and soldiers who will need all the encouragement and comfort they can get their hands on in order to endure this coming trial. The fear must have been paralyzing. Would England become the subjects of Nazi Germany? Standing in the way was King George VI and his speech impediment. Enter Lionel Logue. Lionel Logue was a simple speech therapist. However, upon his shoulders was laid a heavy responsibility. Little did he know that his work with George, the Duke of York, would become a critical component of success in thwarting one of the greatest threats that the free world has ever faced. Words are powerful. However, it is the authority and meaning behind the words that move us. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” And, “sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.” The word of God has the single perlocutionary intent of transforming you and I into the image of Christ.

I am an avid workout person. I am in the gym 5-6 days a week and study three forms of martial arts four days a week. There is a particular class I take that is very challenging. The instructor, when things are very, very tough, will shout out, “This is why you are here.” “Feel that?” “That pain is your body changing.” The point is that change oftentimes requires pain. At a minimum, it requires hard work. The word of God is here to change us. However, oftentimes, that change involves pain. God disciplines us because He loves us. That love often involves pain to some degree. It is during those times that the risks are the highest and pain is the most difficult that change is greatest. Enter genuine godly leadership. It is here that you prove your worth. It is here that leaders shine and rise to the occasion or shrink away and betray their lack of leadership abilities. This does not mean they should be thrown away as people. It just means they are not quite ready to lead.

Authentic Leadership

The authentic leader in the Christian community is the leader that does not consider the frailties of man or the influences and seductions of the status afforded him as a leader. What do I mean? King George VI was concerned about the preservation of his people as a free people. This was more important to him than his legacy. It was not about King George VI. The cause was far greater than that. More than that, in the Christian community, God’s leaders are in a war far more dangerous and deadly than King George VI was. Satan is far more devious than Hitler. Spiritual ruin and destruction is more devastating than becoming the subjects of Nazi Germany. The speech of the Christian leader is the speech of God. God’s word is given to change the hearts of men. When we convince ourselves that people will not listen and that causes us to behave differently, it is here that our leadership has to be re-examined. We must avoid allowing the response of others to dictate to us what truth we will speak and what truth we will withhold. Leadership within the Christian community is the greatest of all responsibilities. It is greater than that of King George VI. Every leader in the Christian community has to examine the motives for why they do the things they do. The human heart is desperately wicked above all things. This makes examination of our motives essential. It is never loving to withhold truth from people. It is particularly unloving to withhold rebuke from those who require it because they are engaged in sinful behavior. It matters not how we think they will respond. That has never been a good reason for not confronting sin. King George VI was transparent and honest. He was a man of humility. He was a man of character. He was a man of great courage. Historians say the contribution of his speeches to the success of the war effort were immeasurable. Let us recognize God’s truth is free to change us into that which we are not. Let us not cage that thing which God designed to reign freely over our hearts and minds.

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