FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
BEING A SERVANT LEADER – 4
April 30, 2015
Today’s gospel: John 13:16-20
We are servants of our Master, Jesus. Jesus himself is the suffering servant, who came not to be served but to serve. As servants we must do as he does. Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples, and told them, if that is what he as Master has done, then they should do the same (v.14-15). We do not do that literally, though the priests do so symbolically on Maundy Thursday during Holy Week. Rather it means we take the lowest place and serve others.
The problem with servant leaders in the Church is that many of them are leaders rather than servants. They take not the lowest place but the highest. They serve not others unselfishly but themselves. They claim to serve Christ, but they do not follow the ways of Christ, having their own agenda or priorities. This is not as the Lord intends for it to be. “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (v.16).
If we follow the way of Jesus, we will be blessed, for it is always a blessing when we truly follow him. Why are some servant leaders burned out rather than on fire? Why do some give up rather than continue to give their all? Why do some start their service with a bang and end up with a whimper? It is because they have not understood servant leadership. They have not followed the ways of Jesus, which includes embracing the cross. “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” (v.17).
Now Judas, one of the Twelve, betrayed Jesus. “The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.” (v.18b). So not everyone who professes to follow Jesus or to serve him is actually with him (physically with him but the heart is elsewhere). There are servant leaders who betray the cause of Christ. There are liberals who are destroying the faith from within. There are those who undermine the life and mission of their Christian communities. They are not true servant leaders. They are the enemy within, more dangerous because of their positions of leadership. To subordinates they might look good, but Jesus certainly has no use for them. “I am not speaking to all of you. I know those whom I have chosen.” (v.18a).
But to those who are authentic servant leaders, who are humble and not self-referential and who think only of the good of Christ and his body on earth, and for those whom they will reach with the gospel through their untiring and selfless service, there will be an unbroken link to the Father. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (v.20). The Father sent the Son and Jesus sends us. Those who receive us as true servants of Jesus are receiving Jesus himself, and thus the Father who sent him.
Is that not amazing work given to us? Jesus has already revealed himself to us and told us all that our assigned task about it. This is so that “you may believe that I AM.” (v.19b). If Jesus is the God who washed our feet, how can we even think, by the way that we serve, to be greater than him?
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