FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
DRINKING THE CUP
July 25, 2016
2 Corinthians 4:7-15
The great failure in leadership in the Church is a failure in servanthood. Many who serve simply bring in their worldly understanding of leadership. Jesus pinpointed the problem: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.” (Mt 20:25). This is perfectly natural in the world, but in the Kingdom of God, it is a bane.
How totally different is a leader in the secular world to that of a servant leader in the Church? The former is to be great and the first; the latter is a servant and a slave (Mt 20:26-27). As such, a servant leader needs to shed the mindsets of the world and put on the mind of Christ. “Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28). Christian leaders will profess that they are there to serve, as indeed they do serve. What will distinguish them as authentic servant leaders will be the values that they embrace, and the Master that they follow. That Master is a suffering servant.
Such is the cup that Jesus speaks about. “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Mt 20:22b). The authentic servant leader will undergo sufferings and pain. And that is actually the glory. That is what makes one worthy to sit at Jesus’ right and left (Mt 20:21). That is the embrace of the cross that the Master has embraced.
Can we drink the cup? Only by the grace and strength of God. “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” (2 Cor 4:7). Jesus endured the passion and came out victorious. So can we. “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:8-9). This actually is the great privilege of servant leadership, that we walk in the very way of Christ. His death brought life. We too, “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor 4:10).
Thus servant leadership is about serving the Master and doing his work. An integral part of that is enduring the cross. “For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4:11). This is the key to effective service, to being life-giving to those we serve. “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Cor 4:12).
Are servant leaders doomed to a life of misery? Not at all. The ignominy of the cross is actually the nobility of the service. The suffering and pain are actually the key to joy and effective service. “Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves.” (Ps 126:5-6).
Servant leadership is not an easy path to take. It is very challenging. It is daunting. It demands a lot from those who are called. But it is the only way to serve Christ. It is the only way to be effective in becoming instruments of blessing for many others. It is the only way for our service to result in giving glory to God. “Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” (2 Cor 4:15).
Can you drink the cup?
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