When God pares down Gideon's army by sending all the fearful men home, Gideon stays. He's probably the most fearful man among them, demonstrated by a story that is written by fear at almost every turn, but God's mercy on the scared does not extend to their fearful leader.
God's grace for him is different.
And that's essentially true of everyone who is called to lead in God's work in the world, whether an Old Testament judge, a New Testament apostle, a stranger in a strange land, you, me. When God raises a person up to a place of position, the rules change a little bit. There becomes, by necessity, another way to go about it.
Imagine if there wasn't. Imagine if God's mercy were the same for the commander as for the soldiers. Imagine a scene where Gideon amasses this army of 32,000 men to go and fight the Midianites and then God declares that anyone who is scared can go home...and Gideon leaves. We'd be left with 10,000 men standing around wondering what to do next. They hadn't heard God's call; they'd heard Gideon's. It was Gideon who was leading this sacred journey. Without him, it's just a war.
Another example of the shifting burden of leadership takes place in Acts 16. Not long previously in Acts, the councils had determined that it was not necessary for believers in other parts of the earth to become circumcised when they came to faith. It was a foolish burden that some of the Jews had been trying to place on the converts, but the council would have none of it. Then it's decided in chapter 16 that Timothy will become part of the missionary efforts...and they circumcise him.
Grace is different for those who are called to positions of prominence or power or influence. Grace is different for the leaders in God's kingdom. Imagine if it wasn't. Imagine if Timothy had to do nothing special in order to become a leader in the early church movement. Imagine if all it took from him was the same thing it took from anyone else - to just declare his belief and go out and live it. All over the region, you'd have men claiming to be leaders in the early church and you'd have factions and fragments going every which direction because there would be no outward sign that the man was committed to more than himself. As imperfect as circumcision was, it was nevertheless a bold statement that a man was giving everything to God. Starting with his foreskin.
It's the story of Christian leadership, of sacred, holy leadership, from the very beginning of time as we know it. Anyone who has been called by God has had a burden to bear for it. His grace has always been different for those called to pour it so freely on others. When the fearful go home, scared Gideon must stay. Though the believers do not have to be circumcised, anointed Timothy does.
And the pastor who preaches the cross of Christ must also carry it.
Imagine if he didn't....
Imagine if he didn't....