Amazon currently has some 57,136 books with “leadership” in the title. Apparently God hasn’t read any of them. Instead of taking control, building consensus, or forcing his way into power over earthly affairs, He chose to place his son into a kingdom like this: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…” (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV)
God’s Upside-down Paradigm
As you consider what Paul is saying about leadership, here are a couple of observations about these verses: First, Jesus was in very nature God, equal in every way. He shared God’s position, his authority, and his status. Then, he left his position in the heavenly realm and became a man.
Wait, what?! Take a moment and just try to imagine the gap between where he was and where we are. He came from the right hand of God the Father, a position of heavenly power and glory. He left all that to come to earth. Jesus did not arrive here as the reigning monarch, but he allowed himself to be placed into the tiny form of a helpless baby. He traded the omniscience of deity for the vulnerability of manhood. He left the security of his kingdom to go behind enemy lines, wagering everything in history on not his Father’s might, but His Father’s love…
So, What Were the Odds for a Crucified Itinerant Preacher?
He took no unfair advantage over the powers of this world, and yet he challenged them utterly with nothing but his Word and his life. He was very God of very God, and yet he demanded no riches, no opulence, no glory… Compare that with Roman Emperors, who used every advantage, leveraged every bit of power they could grasp, and even claimed to be gods themselves! Jesus, refusing the trappings of the world, came to a common family far away from palaces and politics.
As “Jesus Christ Superstar” once pointed out, he came to earth before the printing press, mass communications, and even before social media. Quick: how many Rabbis do you remember from the first century? How many Roman Emperors? Rulers of Persia, Egypt, China? How many people who were crucified by the Roman government?
The Roman Empire is long gone, yet Jesus established a kingdom on earth that people everywhere still recognize. His story had been told throughout history, throughout the world. His organization did not follow any earthly blueprint for success. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t go to the best schools or have earthly wealth; his recruits were fishermen, tradesmen, students, and even a traitor.
In a very surprising twist, though, he came as a servant and always gave glory to someone else. Jesus was loving, vulnerable, honest and forthright; and he was killed at a young age by men who wielded earthly power. He was reviled by religious leaders and crucified by political authorities. Yet, in spite of all of those things, his kingdom thrives today, twenty-one centuries later…
Not the Leadership Everyone Expected
Which leads to observation #2: His leadership was totally counter-cultural. Even though he was GOD, He humbled himself. He didn’t leverage deity to try to be important, as Caesar did; he came as a servant, and served others. The contrast between the way Jesus led and the way our leaders do is still dramatic. How many of our Congressmen and Presidents these days are wealthy? How many of them ACTUALLY serve anyone? When did a president last hold a Congressional foot-washing?
Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Perhaps our cultural criteria for leadership is a bit flawed… If we only selected leaders with humility who are willing to serve, I bet the world would be a better place. I bet it would look a lot more like the place that Jesus left in order to come here.
Leaders lust for power, fortune, fame, and for renown;
God took earthly leadership and turned it upside down.
Earthly leaders like to strut, but God threw them a curve,
And sent a spiritual king whose only mission was to serve.
What if leaders acted like they all were heaven-sent?
Would it change the Congress, or the current president?
Jesus was a servant. You just think of that, because
I wonder how our world would be if EVERY leader was?
For Jesus that’s only way a leader is defined;
Sadly, servant leadership is pretty hard to find;
(It’s not the way our leaders or our culture is inclined)
But if you’re called to leadership, then please keep that in mind.
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