The highest job and the lowest role
Who wants to be the leader? Just think of the pressures: political jostling with colleagues; media sound bites to reinforce or counter-attack; trying to align one’s image and the message to convey; the blurring of private and public life so that personal life takes on global interest. Politicians struggle with all of these things. Football managers struggle with all of these things. Entertainers struggle with all these things. Business C.E.O.’s struggle with all of these things. Who is really up for taking on such a role?
Certain skills are essential for leaders: planning, identifying barriers and gaining the support from others – since leaders can only lead if people follow! Leadership courses abound, the bookshelves of the shops are heaving with suggestions as to the essential skills of the most effective people. Yet skills are not the complete answer.
The life of Jesus Christ profoundly affected his followers, both then and now. This historic leader towers over others and is respected even by those who don’t follow. The reason for this is that Jesus’ life shows an exact correspondence between words and actions. He was born to die, but his whole life pattern was one of self-sacrifice for others. Having announced his imminent death he called people to follow: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it’ (Mark 8v34-35). His demanding invitation is both startling and compelling. It is startling because the call to loyalty is uncompromising. It is compelling because his commitment and faithfulness to his people is total. The one who came to fulfil the highest job took on the lowest role ofself-sacrificial service.
The season of Lent kicks in during February. It’s traditionally a time to reconsider Jesus’ extreme kindness to us and his call to an allegiance that will not compromise. Those who walk in the footsteps of Christ take on the lowest role of servant, but will one day receive the highest honour.