When John Received the Revelation

Years ago, in my first ministry, I was mid-stride of my sermon on a Sunday evening when I noticed that one of my elders, an elderly man, was head-back, mouth-opened, and, to me, looked dead. “What do I do? What if he’s dead? What if he isn’t dead? All these questions ran through my mind as my cadence slowed. What made matters worse, he couldn’t hear thunderclap if it were right on top of him. What was I to do? As I continued preaching, I happened upon a point in my sermon that I could build. Nay, I could crescendo! For those unaware, a crescendo is when in music, the score may start soft, or piano, and build and build. My voice built and built as with passion, I preached the Word! Nothing. “Oh no, he’s died in worship!” I thought. What could be worse? Do I stop preaching and point this out? His wife was right beside him but so fixed on what I was saying she didn’t even notice. “I know: I’ll pound on the pulpit!” As I’d reached the heights of my vocal projection, I worked in a timely “pound!” on the pulpit like a gospel preacher of old. Slowly, he revived. “He’s not dead! Thank you, God!!!”  

You could ask any preacher about the things they’ve seen from the pulpit, and you’ll hear some exciting stories. Some would be funny, others just sad. Imagine, however, you’re on an island in worship one Sunday, and God gives you a revelation. This is what happened to John the Divine, as he’s later called in church history. Tradition has it that John worshipped in a cave which is today referred to as The Cave of the Apocalypse, a popular pilgrimage site for those who would visit Greece. When he received his vision, John is reported to have dictated it to Prochorus, his disciple, and one of the first seven deacons from Acts 6:5What was John doing when he received this Revelation? Was he alone or with other Christians? These are all questions that interest us, and some to which we have nothing but to speculate, so we’ll stick with what we know.    

Setting the Scene  

We know that John was on the island of Patmos when he received the Revelation (1:9). How he came to be there isn’t altogether clear, but the most plausible explanation has been that he was sent to the island due to his evangelistic endeavors, which were perceived as a threat to the Roman Empire. One might wonder how the good news of Jesus might appear to threaten the mighty Roman Empire, but such a query is quickly answered by the fact that preaching Christ as Lord as much pitted Him against Caesar (Acts 17:7). The conversion of citizens amounted to an uprising, so the leaders of Christians, among whom was John, were targeted with the hopes that the movement would be quelled.  

We know that political opponents, or those out of favor with Caesar, were often exiled (Tacitus, Ann. 14.50; 15.71), and many have offered that Patmos was one such island to which they were sent, the Apostle John himself being one.1 That it was the apostle and not some other John that wrote the work is attested to as early as 166 CE by Justin Martyr (Trypho 81.15).2 Irenaeus, in 202 CE, offered that John received his revelation “towards the end of Domitian’s reign”3which was from 81–96 CE. If this is, in fact, accurate as many scholars suggest it is, we have a general time frame in which to set the writing, which may explain much of the material contained therein.4 Domitian was hostile to not only Christians, history records, but to even several senatorial families—murdering and exiling a number of them. This eventually led to his assassination and a formal condemnation from the senate, but, first, let’s back up a little farther 

The first formal Emperor of Rome, Augustus, undertook many religious reforms that resulted in an exaltation of the emperor cult. All first-century emperors favored it too, and Caligula, Nero, and Domitian provoked marks of adoration. Domitian insisted on having the title Dominus et Deus (“Lord and God”). Such worship proved one’s loyalty to the emperor as well as the wellbeing of Rome herself, and where of all places was the most robust center of the imperial cult but in Asia—the very place where John addressed the Revelation. In the ancient world, Asia had been the epicenter of emperor worship since Augustus, and these issues are likely what prompted the persecution and Revelation of John to surface.5  

We know where John was—in exile on Patmos—and we now turn to what he was doing when the Revelation came: he was ministering to the Lord, likely through prayer (Rev. 1:10; cf. Acts 13:1–3). Why do we surmise that he was ministering to the Lord? Because he notes that it occurred on the Lord’s Day or Sunday as we’d call it.6 On any given Sunday, Christians assembled to worship God. Since John was in exile, he might have only been with a small group, so the formal assembly, as we regard it, was somewhat absent. John, nevertheless, was still capable of worshiping God and while exiled and in worship, he likely was facing East as was the custom of the Jews and early Christians, and he “came to be in the Spirit” (cf. Acts 10:10; 22:17). John uses this phrase four times altogether in the Revelation: here in 1:10, when he’s taken to see the heavenly throne in 4:2, the prostitute Babylon in 17:3, and the New Jerusalem in 21:10. These visions follow the motif of Ezekiel, who also in exile received visions (Ezek. 11:24; 37:1).  

 What John Gave Us  

The next question is what John gave us: a blueprint of the end times as some believed? Or a message to those in the first century that they clearly would have understood? I certainly favor the latter. John told us at the very beginning what he was giving us: a book of prophecy (Rev. 1:3; cf. 22:7, 10, 18–19). In the first century, we know that prophets were in the church because they are listed second behind only the apostles who were heads of the church on earth in the Lord’s place (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). John makes reference to the prophets several times in this letter (Rev. 10:7; 16:6; 18:20, 24; 22:6, 9). Since John gave a book of prophecy, though confusing it may be at times, we must treat it as we would any other book of prophecy: historically and literarily.  

On the Western Front during the Great War, the allies were struggling against the Germans. Germany had tapped the allies’ phone lines and was able to break their codes. As American forces are working on a solution, a captain heard two of his soldiers speaking in a strange language. These two soldiers were Choctaw, and they were speaking their mother language. When the captain confronted them, they probably thought they were in trouble because, at the time, such was actually forbidden. They could have been sent to a reeducation program to rid them of using that mother language, but the captain figured that if he couldn’t understand them, then the Germans wouldn’t be able to either. As it turned out, the Germans couldn’t break the code. The war ended not too long after using the Choctaw Code Talkers, and in WWII, the Navajo Code Talkers would take center stage.  

Similar to how the Germans couldn’t break the Choctaw code, understanding Revelation is somewhat of a mystery. Because the visions are so mesmerizing and overwhelming shouldn’t mean that we should make the book say something it doesn’t. John inasmuch told us that these things were “signified” (Rev. 1:1). I know folks hold sincerely held beliefs about this speaking about the end times and the signs of the times, but here’s a reality we must face: we cannot use this book to determine when Jesus will come, because no one knows (Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). What we know with certainty is that Jesus will come, and when He does, we best be ready.  

Asserting Rights in the Age of COVID-19

If there’s one discussion that I’m proud to see happening in our country right now, it’s of different people and entities asserting their rights. When President Trump all but claimed that the office of the presidency had absolute power over the country, my mind quickly flickered to the tenth amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Eventually, Trump conceded that the states would determine their opening timelines and processes after giving guidelines.

Yesterday, Kentucky Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, held a press conference reaffirming the first amendment rights of Kentuckians against Governor Andy Beshear’s restrictive policies, specifically against church assemblies and protests. People have lauded Beshear’s handling of the crisis for the state but have conveniently forgotten how as Attorney General himself, he would have sued the Bevin administration before lunch. While he’s mostly avoided making the issue political, he has walked the fine line of violating the rights of Kentuckians.

Then you have the Facebookers who vehemently claim, “Your rights end where my life begins,” anytime someone asserts their rights. While in theory, this is true, they misapply it to democratize the orthodox cult of “we’re all in this togetherness.” A person does have natural and inherent rights, but when those rights infringe upon another’s, they cease to be a right. However, for people to want to assemble in a church or to protest, they must be willing to assume that risk. Liberty comes with risks. For those who don’t want to gather, stay home. No one is forcing anyone to go to church or assemble peaceably in any other regard. Because people assert their first amendment rights does not automatically put others at risk, but those who want to stifle such privileges use poor logic in saying that it puts their life at risk. If those who are so concerned about their lives stayed home while the rest of us go about living our lives, they would have nothing to worry about.

When our country was established and the yoke of the British crown shattered, the defining ideal was liberty. Liberty from tyranny, freedom from excessive taxation without representation, right to worship God how we so choose, and on and on. People today exchange liberty for the illusion of safety, and by so doing, give the government leave to infringe upon the rights of her citizens. At the same time, those who want security are willing to make the deal. How did the Founders envision our liberties? Where did they come from? This is an answer Thomas Paine addressed, and had he not, the efforts of the Revolution might have been for naught.

Alongside Locke and Jefferson stood Thomas Paine for the advocacy of the natural rights of humanity in political and religious liberty. Robert Ingersoll wrote that Paine’s The Rights of Man “was the greatest contribution that literature had given to liberty.” [1] The sole thesis of Paine’s argument for humanity’s rights was an argument from nature—his natural philosophy having been influenced by Isaac Newton. Epistemologically, Paine believed that “He who takes nature for his guide is not easily beaten out of his argument.” [2] Therefore, the greater breadth of his writings utilized the argument from nature to support his conclusions.

Paine wrote that he had obtained a general knowledge of natural philosophy as a child, at which time he began to “confront” the evidence of Christianity.[3] He defined his natural philosophy as “the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works.” [4] Therefore, Paine would retort, “Why then not trace the rights of man to the creation of man?” [5] Though he would later deconstruct the Bible as a whole, he borrowed from the Mosaic creation account for its “historical authority.” [6] Ingersoll wrote that despite Paine thinking that the Bible was “absurd and cruel,” he found that there were some excellent and useful things therein.[7] The particular passages that he found suited to his views were those of a natural philosophic “nature” (i.e., Psalm 19).

Paine pointed to the distinction of sexes as the only recorded distinction, and the Mosaic creation account of “the equality of man” was, to Paine, “the oldest upon record.” [8] Man’s natural rights were the foundation for his civil rights. The two were distinguished as thus:

Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others. Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society.[9]

What must be understood of Paine is that when he refers to man’s natural rights, he refers to “the natural dignity of man.” This dignity is “the honour and happiness of its character.” [10]

How these views, and the doctrine of natural rights, shaped the views of Paine is evident throughout his pamphlets. Governments “un-made” men by their activities, which denied the natural rights of man. Hereditary succession was one of the most disputed notions in his writings because the hereditary succession was unnatural. While the monarchs claimed that their authority came from God, the truth was that kings and kingdoms were actually not God’s will according to the biblical account that Paine referenced in Common Sense. Therein he argued that God reluctantly granted Israel a king. Before their history as a monarchical state, Israel was governed by judges and the elders of the tribes—a form of government that Paine identified as a “kind of republic.” Ergo, since the monarchs of Paine’s time argued for heavenly sanction, Paine went further into Heaven’s decrees to refute hereditary succession. He would also state that virtue is not genetic, so to claim that one man’s rule would be in tandem with another’s who was virtuous was to ignore the “natural” truth about human nature.

One of the strongest NATURAL proofs of the folly of hereditary rights in kings, is, that nature disproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ASS FOR A LION.[11]

Another view for which Paine argued on nature’s basis was the freedom of a person’s mind. This argument was especially useful in dissolving the notion of an established church because one should practice their religion “according to the dictates of conscience.” [12] The natural rights of man’s intellect belonged to one’s religious choice as long as it did not impede the natural rights of another.[13]

With respect to what are called denominations of religion, if every one is left to judge of its own religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is wrong; but if they are to judge of each other’s religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is right; and therefore all the world is right, or all the world is wrong. But with respect to religion itself, without regard to names, and as directing itself from the universal family of mankind to the Divine object of all adoration, it is man bringing to his Maker the fruits of his heart; and though those fruits may differ from each other like the fruits of the earth, the grateful tribute of every one is accepted.[14]

At the time that Paine argued for religious liberty, the country supported a state church. The result of dissenting groups such as Puritans, and from them Quakers, and later Baptists, was persecution. Paine believed that in man’s natural state to make up his own mind, he should choose that sort of devotion that he thought was his “conscientious” devotion to the Almighty as long as it did not obstruct or violate another’s choice.

Paine would argue that persecution was not an original feature of religion, but that it was always the feature of all law-religions, or beliefs established by law. If the lawfulness of faith was taken away, then every religion would assume its own “benignity.” As a testimony to the detriments of the union of the state and religion, Paine cited the effects that such association had on Spain.[15]

Eventually, as history records, liberty would be won both politically and religiously. The poet Joel Barlow reflected on Paine’s contribution to the Revolution. He wrote that “without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.” [16] While the actual fight took place on the battlefield with Washington, Paine’s battlefield was in mind. Barlow aptly noted this sentiment by realizing that thoughts had to change more than battles could win.


[1] Robert G. Ingersoll, “Thomas Paine,” The North American Review 155, no. 429 (Aug. 1892): 181–95.

[2] Common Sense  (Appendix).

[3] The Age of Reason 1.11.

[4] Ibid., 1.8. Cf. Thomas Paine, “A Discourse Delivered to the Society of Theophilanthropists, at Paris,”; and “The Existence of God: A Discourse at the Society of Theophilanthropists, Paris.”

[5]Thomas Paine,  The Rights of Man, in Thomas Paine Collection (Forgotten Books, 2007), 88.

[6] Ibid., 89.

[7] Ingersoll, “Thomas Paine,” 189–90.

[8] Paine, The Rights of Man, 89.

[9] Ibid., 90.

[10] Ibid., 92. Paine’s theories on happiness and being a member of society are reminiscent of Aristotle (cf. Ethics 1.13).

[11] Common Sense (Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession).

[12] Ibid. (Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs).

[13] Paine, The Rights of Man, 90.

[14] Ibid., 107.

[15] Ibid., 108.

[16] Harvey J. Kaye, Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005), 5.

Antebellum Kentucky was the Frontier for Liberty

Having only recently completed F. H. Buckley’s latest work, American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup, my mind reverted to some work I’d done several years ago. In a history tutorial I took on Early American Intellect, I’d read several sources about Kentucky herself during the post-Revolutionary period. I was intrigued to discover that the state, then, was considered a frontier for liberty and that those who disdained the newly formed federal government of the United States traveled to the Commonwealth to escape the hustle of what they disliked about the newly formed republic. One might find it amazing to envision that the country in her infancy would still find citizens unhappy after defeating the British, but this is indeed what many felt.

Republicanism became a reality when America liberated itself from England. The English crown could no longer claim rights to the prosperity of the new world, and a turning point in history was reached when colonists fought for the chief prerogative of man—liberty. However, in the new republic, factions threatened to unseat any stability that resulted from freedom. The Federalists sympathized with English practices and ways while Republicans—not the political party, but those who favored a republican form of government—disdained the traditions of the former motherland. Those sympathies towards certain customs from the homeland (e.g., aristocracy, monarchical titles, and pomp) were readily associated with a return to the Old World in the New World.

The aftermath of the Revolutionary War did not result in a utopia, and the early republic was not ideal for those who occupied the territory of Kentucky. Several founding fathers were fearful that Kentucky would deal with any government that best suited it regardless of its country of sovereignty; however, Kentucky was not formally a state until 1792. Thomas Jefferson, from Paris in 1786, wrote to Archibald Stuart,

I fear from an expression in your letter that the people of Kentucké think of separating not only from Virginia (in which they are right) but also from the confederacy. I own I should think this a most calamitous event, and such as one every good citizen on both sides should set himself against.[1]

While conceding to their right to separate from Virginia, Jefferson did not desire the territory departing from the confederacy, and with good reason. Jefferson wrote on to Stuart that America should be cautious about how this dilemma played out because America’s response might press Spain, which he did not think was wise at the time.

Since Spain controlled most of what is currently Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, Spain controlled the Mississippi River. The river was vital to transporting goods, so Spain closed the Mississippi River to American trade to detract the westward move. However, once Spain realized that settlers in the Kentucky territory belonged to them, they changed their approach towards the settlers. The Spanish conspiracy, wherein Spain offered trading licenses to settlers in Kentucky, threatened the allegiance, albeit dwindling, of the state to the new republic.

Many Americans were moving to Kentucky in search of greater freedom, and the land was promised as payment to soldiers who fought in the Revolution. The Continental Congress was so poor that it could scarcely afford to live up to its promises to those who fought for liberty—a detail that almost resulted in a Revolution against the Continental Congress—so land in the West seemed to be sufficient.  Kentucky was a sought-after territory because it was believed to have been “a mine of vast wealth.” [2] Many left the East coast for the open land and smaller-to-no government in Kentucky, and the central government was too weak to deal with the exodus: “The Western settlers were as defiant of the new American authorities in the East as they had been of the British crown.” [3] This disdain for the British may be one explanation as to why Western politicians voted for the War of 1812 as a matter of honor.[4]

John Jay and the federal government worried about the West’s propensity to cause trouble in the union. Kentucky would not accept the position of United States attorney, and they disdained the federal government’s excise tax, which nearly led to a show of force from the federal government. One historian described the frontier mind as:

Reckless, exuberant, lawless, violent, brave, the frontiersman of Kentucky acted the part of the utterly free agent and by word or gesture expressed a lively contempt for artificial ethical prescriptions.[5]

Another wrote,

The Kentuckians who opened that part of the Old Northwest on the Ohio River were distinguished by a restless energy, freedom of thought, and a sense of destiny, all attributable to their military heritage.[6]

This freedom of thought welcomed the ideas of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson: “Thomas Paine had been the most widely read author in early Kentucky. His Age of Reason was viral, and answers to it were widely circulated.” [7] While Thomas Paine was very popular with Kentuckians, Thomas Jefferson won their hearts. One 1795 Kentucky toast was stated this way, “May the patriots of ’76 step forward with Jefferson at their head and cleanse the country of degeneracy and corruption.” [8]

Kentucky was in a phase of expansion, and goods from the east were continually being traded with the state. From the previous decade’s treaty enacted by John Jay that favored the British, the Treaty of San Lorenzo was welcomed by Kentuckians for its negotiated open-navigation of the Mississippi. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Federalists had passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, and Kentucky—along with Virginia—called upon the other states to declare this act unconstitutional. Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison that Kentucky should, “Sever [themselves] from that union [they] so much value, rather than give up the rights of self government which [they] have reserved, and in which [they] alone see liberty.” [9] What is interesting to note from Jefferson’s letter to Madison was that he used personal pronouns when describing Kentucky as if he was a Kentuckian himself. Nevertheless, the Kentucky legislature repeated its opposition and declared a “nullification” of those acts.[10]

By what right did authority claim obedience? This was the question now being asked of every institution, every organization, every individual. It was as if the Revolution had set in motion a disintegrative force that could not be stopped.[11] Perhaps no one understood this sentiment better than Thomas Jefferson, and no people practiced it more than the Westerners. As volatile and vital as the West was in the early republic, Kentucky was at the forefront of liberty. Coupled with Jeffersonian policies, Kentucky became a magnet for the purest lovers of freedom. The stability of Kentucky concerning the union can be said to have been a catalyst for a westward expansion of the United States.


[1] Thomas Jefferson, Letters, in Thomas Jefferson Writings, Merrill D. Peterson, comp., (New York: The Library of America, 2011), 844.

[2] James Madison, Federalist 38.

[3] Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 115.

[4] Ibid., 661.

[5] Arthur K. Moore, The Frontier Mind (Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1957), 48, 67. Cf. Wood, Empire of Liberty, 319.

[6] R. C. Buley, The Old Northwest (University of Indiana Press, 1951), 1:139.

[7] Kent Ellett, “Jeffersonian Evangelical: Christian Liberty in the Life and Letters of Barton W. Stone,” Discipliana 64, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 79–93.

[8] Wood, Empire of Liberty, 164.

[9] Ibid., 270.

[10] Ibid., 271.

[11] Ibid., 321.

[12] Ibid., 594.

A COVID-19 Leadership Lesson from an Ancient Roman

The year is 19 BCE, and the poet, Virgil is traveling with the Emperor Augustus. For the last ten years, Virgil has been working on an epic poem akin to Homer’s two infamous works, Iliad and Odyssey. The only difference being that Virgil is writing one not for Greece, but for the Roman Empire and its current leader, Augustus. While on this trip to Greece with the Emperor, Virgil has a heat stroke and is unwell. Not seeming to recover, he tells his companions to destroy his manuscript because he isn’t pleased with it in the least. Do they heed his words? No. After the statesman passes away, they present the unfinished work to the Emperor, who then orders it to be published throughout the Empire. Such is done, and even to this day, Virgil’s work remains with us. It is studied in the humanities by those in various disciplines. Luckily for us, they didn’t destroy it as the poet wanted, because we’d be bereft of a marvelous tome that gives us tremendous insight into the first centuries BCE and CE.

It hadn’t been much longer before Virgil began working on his poem that Augustus ended the civil war that ravaged the Empire. Augustus’ great-uncle, Julius Caesar, had crossed the Rubicon—an illegal act to bring an army beyond that point into the holy city—and consolidated power. Rome ceased to be a Republic and became an Empire. Caesar would eventually be assassinated in the Senate by many of his peers. This was only a continuation of the civil war that he’d began with Pompey. Now, various factions were vying for control of Rome. Caesar, himself having fathered no sons, had only his great-nephew, Augustus, to name as his heir, which he had done in his will. Augustus rode the popularity of his uncle and eventually quelled the rivals and, in a triumph, marched their corpses through the streets of Rome and was universally recognized as Emperor. Virgil’s work was to honor not only Augustus but the history of the Roman people.

Virgil picked up where Homer left off, but he picked up with the losers of the Trojan War, the Trojans themselves. He chose Aeneas, a high-ranking soldier, to be his hero and that of Rome. Aeneas and those with him who fled Troy did so in the shadow of a once-thought impregnable city burning in ashes. Flames and smoke filled the sky. Cries could be heard. Aeneas was the surviving officer to lead what Trojans he could to safety, and ultimately to fulfill the gods’ will of sailing to Latium (Italy) where they would establish themselves. Aeneas would be the father of the Roman people. Thrust into this position of sole leadership of the Trojans, Aeneas is portrayed as very much human, but a stalwart chap.

Virgil’s very much concerned with portraying him as human but as dutiful to the will of the gods. The word used in the text of him and his mission is pietas. This is a term we would translate as “duty.” If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey and The Crown, you will understand a bit about duty. Particularly the latter, Queen Elizabeth is both a person and a monarch, and the crown must always win, as her grandmother tells her in the show. What does this entail? It entails subjugating one’s personal feelings, ties, and desires for the sake of their duty. Aeneas does this, and he is particularly shown to do so when he forsakes the Carthaginian Queen, Dido, to fulfill his mission.

So, you might now be asking, what has all this to do with COVID-19 and leadership? Now I will begin to answer this question, but only after you have an understanding of the context in which this occurred. In the first lines of this epic, Aeneid, the hero, is nearly shipwrecked as he and his compatriots flee the burning city of Troy. In that instance, Aeneas cries aloud to the heavens and gods about his miseries. However, not too much later in the first book of this work, Aeneas addresses those with him thus:

Companions mine, we have not failed to feel
calamity till now. O, ye have borne
far heavier sorrow: Jove will make an end
also of this. Ye sailed a course hard by
infuriate Scylla’s howling cliffs and caves.
Ye knew the Cyclops’ crags. Lift up your hearts!
No more complaint and fear! It well may be
some happier hour will find this memory fair.
Through chance and change and hazard without end,
our goal is Latium; where our destinies
beckon to blest abodes, and have ordained
that Troy shall rise new-born! Have patience all!
And bide expectantly that golden day. (Aeneid, 1.198–207)

He begins by acknowledging not only their loss in battle but the tumultuous journey in fleeing Troy and all the travails that have befallen them since. He, then, instructs them to no longer be afraid and, thus, complain. He points to the future and how they may even look back on this occasion with somewhat of a fondness. That sounds improbable, but he’s leading terrified, demoralized people. He invokes the gods’ will of them reaching Latium (Italy) and rising again. In the meantime, he urges them to be patient and to look forward to their bright future, for it is the will of the gods. After this, we read the following.

Such was his word, but vexed with grief and care,
feigned hopes upon his forehead firm he wore,
and locked within his heart a hero’s pain. (Aeneid, 1.208–210)

Virgil, next, informs us that while saying what he had said, the hero himself was terrified.

Leaders often must portray confidence even in the face of fear and uncertainty. No matter where we find ourselves, we’re all leaders in one way or another. As entrepreneurs, we’ve made tough decisions over the past month. People have had to be furloughed or laid off. Maybe even our inventory has had to be discarded or drastically reduced in price to keep afloat. As elected officials, we want to consider so many points that making the right decision seems like a no-win scenario. No matter what we decided, it won’t be popular with everyone, but we will make the decision based on the best available data. As parents, we want our children to be healthy and well, and we don’t want them to fear. We may grapple with our own fears, but we know if we let them know that we’re afraid, it could bring about the anxiety we aren’t equipped to manage. 

In my own position as a minister, I have found that the balancing act of doing what’s in the best interest of the congregation I serve and love as well as expressing my personal views is a tough road to travel. I’ve found it necessary to halt voicing my own opinions only because it garners more animosity than it’s worth. Though I’m no economist or epidemiologist, as a man of letters, I can read, research, decipher, and form what I believe to be an intelligent opinion. However, when people are afraid, no amount of reason is well-received and often subject to misinterpretation. I care for people: their health, their economy, and their rights. I’ve subjected my personal feelings to the backburner on all that is taking place for the sake of a greater good—bringing peace and calm in an unprecedented time. Virgil has been my instructor in this venture as of late. If I had it to do over again, I would have withheld my own views for fear that it may alienate someone from Christ by my role as a minister. The Gospel is exceedingly more important than being right. My opinion isn’t that important if it would create a chasm between myself and a potential convert to Jesus. Virgil taught me this through his own leadership of people, and he can show us all how to best lead during this period.


Vergil. Aeneid. Theodore C. Williams. trans. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1910.

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