Monday, June 6, 2016

Beauty of Leading Through Serving

Do you know what sport Jesus played? I can’t confirm it, but I have a strong suspicion He played tennis. Because in Mark 10:45, Jesus declared, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve….” And in John 14:3, He said to watch out for His return.

Okay, that’s an example of taking the Scriptures out of context, even twisting a word or two. But throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, serving clearly was a high priority for Him – except not in the tennis sense of the word. Repeatedly in the gospel accounts we see Jesus serving others in one way or another – turning water into wine at a wedding feast; giving sight to the blind, enabling the lame to walk, healing the sick and raising people from the dead; casting out demons; intervening when people were in trouble. 

This is not what Jesus meant when He talked
of coming to serve rather than be served.
Jesus even performed the lowly, servant’s task of washing the disciples’ feet just hours before His trial and then crucifixion. So when He made the declaration, also recounted in Matthew 20:28, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Jesus was expounding on a previous statement, “whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:27). It’s said lessons are more easily caught than taught, and through His example, Jesus was demonstrating to His followers what true leadership looks like.

It’s interesting how intriguing the concept of “servant leadership” has become, especially in today’s business and professional world. At a time when so many people have their eye on “I” – or “me” – the notion of a leader selflessly and sacrificially serving others seems novel. It’s certainly not being taught in our esteemed business schools, and on those rare times when examples of servanthood are presented through the national media, they’re treated as anomalies, exceptions rather than rules.

However, from God’s perspective, serving others should be the norm. After all, He did show us how it’s supposed to be done. Jesus declared, after His precedent-shattering foot washing, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).

It doesn’t take an in-depth study of the Scriptures to see how important servanthood is to God. You might say that for all followers of Jesus, it’s a essential part of their job description. The apostle Paul, who himself endured much hardship and suffering in fulfilling his calling to minister to others, wrote, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:5-7).

Later, writing about the young man he had mentored, Paul said, “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a (spiritual) son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Philippians 2:21-22).

This truly is a revolutionary concept in many respects. Few of us awaken in the morning resolving to find someone to serve, much less take the risk of being treated like a servant! But that’s exactly what disciples of Christ are asked and exhorted to do.

No, it’s not easy. But imagine the difference it could make if we each resolved, rather than demanding to be served, to find ways of serving others – even if it cost us in terms of time, our talents, or our material resources. How refreshing it might be for the world around us to observe people with a “you first” rather than “me first” attitude.

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