Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 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.” – Matthew 20:25-28
Which is preferable to the natural, selfish man? To fight for one’s own honor or to be comfortable being humiliated? To hold over others ones’ own position of power, or to be comfortable passed over and forgotten? Would you rather be emphasized or marginalized?
If I’m being honest, my natural desire is to be recognized and respected. I want people to respect my name and position. One silly example that comes to mind regarding my own high self-opinion is my desire to earn another graduate degree for the title “Dr.” It may sound really childish, and it is, but while the knowledge gained would be beneficial (much of which I could gain through my own independent study), I would love the special academica regalia and the reverence and weight that comes with being “Dr.” I want people to know I’m smart, and if I could do that before I ever open my mouth, even better.
Yes. It’s sad. Here’s why it is so sad. I claim to follow Christ. And, by claiming to follow Christ, I am saying that I’m attempting to do as he did. Are my actions affirming my mouth? Jesus, who made every atom in the universe, subjected himself to the futility of a decaying universe so that he might redeem it. He willingly set aside his royalty to become “riff-raff” (singing Aladdin in my head right now. . .). Not only did he chose a low position, he chose a relatively obscure part of the world to inhabit. Furthermore, he willingly associated with those where also the marginalized of society.
And, each of these humbling moves was for the purpose to lead the greatest exodus the universe has known, not an exodus of physical slavery, but an exodus of intellectual, moral, social, and spiritual slavery. Jesus calls his followers to do likewise in the world. Am I?
Those outside Christ lord authority over people “lesser” than themselves. They play the authority card, and demand respect due to title. But, that is not at all what the Church should look like. In the church, it is not so. A Christian is to serve whomever God puts in his path. For me, that means serving students! What does it mean for you? You may not be serving students, but I’d be willing to bet the object of your service still causes you pause.
Jesus flips the paradigm. There can be no lordship in the church. After all, there is only One Lord, and that’s Christ. Even our One Lord, Christ himself, didn’t lord his authority over anyone, but served. Jesus embodies himself and then calls in his likeness his followers to not be “lords” but “leaders.” These leaders are servants, ministers of the Gospel of Christ just as Christ was.
Jesus’ leadership led him to a cross. He died for those whom he served. Jesus’ life tells us the extent to which we ought to go for those whom we serve. He didn’t consider his own life more than those whom he served. Yet, I (we?) often consider my own self-image, pride, arrogance, perception, etc. more important than serving others. Lord, help me.
Let Matthew 20 be an opportunity for self-reflection. Do you look more like the worldly standards of lordship at work, in your home, in your marriage, with your children, etc., or are you embodying the ideals of Christ in every circumstance and serving everyone, especially the least of these?
May we not simply not be hearers of the word, but doers as well.