Saturday, October 15, 2005

Leadership, Jesus-style

Everywhere I go, I see the face of perhaps the greatest political and societal revolutionary/reformer of the past few centuries: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Not only did he lead Turkey to independence from Greece and other foreign powers in 1923, but he instituted many sweeping changes that brought Turkey from being an ineffective and obscure Near Eastern agricultural country to being a modern force with which to be reckoned in both Europe and Asia. Changing the Turkish alphabet, banning Islamic rule, changing people's normal attire, and setting up a quasi-democratic government (that is, until the military decides the country is heading in the wrong direction and intervenes or performs yet another violent coup because they're apparently much wiser than the people) are but a few of his accomplishments.

Yet while I look at his picture, I see someone esteemed greatly in the eyes of man, not on account of his humility, meekness, or peacefulness, but on account of his military conquests, intelligence, resourcefulness, and charisma. Yet in the eyes of Jesus, true authority and greatness looks far different: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10.43-45). Why are these such hard words, when indeed they're the only ones that truly make sense?

In one of his sermons on leadership lessons from Nehemiah, my pastor said that no one can consider himself to be a leader unless he has people actually following him. Being a leader--whether in a place of business, the government, civic office, classroom, church, or household--demands that people trust you and want to follow you because they know they will be cared for and have their needs met. As noted by philosopher Blaise Pascal, one's every decision is for the sake of gaining and increasing his happiness; even those followers of Hitler or Pol Pot acted thus. This demands that leaders serve those under them. This is the reason why the roles and responsibilities of husbands, fathers, and bosses can really work (Eph 5.22 - 6.9). And because we've all been entrusted with the guidance and care of one another within the body of Christ, we are all called to be the servant of all.

In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up the need for loving service to our brothers as the prerequisite for the highest of services: speaking the Word of God to one another:

The speaking of that Word is beset with infinite perils. If it is not accompanied by worthy listening, how can it really be the right word for another person? If it is contradicted by one's own lack of active helpfulness, how can it be a convincing and sincere word? If it issues, not from a spirit of bearing and forebearing, but from impatience and the desire to force its acceptance, how can it be the liberating and healing word? (p. 104)

Why is this so hard for us? What is in our human nature that so quickly dismisses these words of Jesus so that we can get on with boosting our egos and receiving praise from others? Jesus clearly warns us that seeking honor from men hinders our faith (John 5.44). And wherein does our faith lie? Is it not indeed in a God who condescended and shook off his rights in order to get whipped, mocked, hung from a wooden beam, and fed vinegar? The only profitable faith lies fixed upon the cross of Christ, and thus the life of faith must equally be an embracing of this cross in daily life. Let us be servants to all.

1 comment:

halfmom said...

We are totally egocentric because we don't really know who God is. His character is distorted in our fallen human minds and we don't trust Him to really know the answers or have our best interest at heart. So, as the prophet said, we carve out broken cisterns that hold no water. My question concerns Adam and Eve who did not have fallen intellects. They knew no fear or lack and chose to believe the lie that God wasn't who He said He was and that He would withold good from them. How did that happen to folks in a non-fallen state?