FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS
September 14, 2014
Today’s reading: Philippians 2:6-11
A servant leader is a servant of Jesus who has been designated by him to lead his people or care for his flock. The servant leader steps into the sandals of Jesus, doing to his people what Jesus would have done for them. He possesses his authority. But he is to exercise his authority as a servant. He is the leader of but is the servant to God’s people.
Here is where the problem comes in. This is when the disciple becomes more of a leader than a servant, when he focuses on authority over God’s people rather than his own submission to God, when he begins to think more highly of himself that he ought, when he loses sight of the reality that whatever he can do effectively is only due to God’s grace and power and never due to his own resources.
To keep on the right track, the servant leader needs to look to the ultimate example of servant leadership, and that is Jesus. What was Jesus like?
First, he, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped” (v.6). He did not look to who he truly was and then stand on those credentials. He was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. But he set all those aside. He was to be a suffering servant.
Second, “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (v.7a). He shed his glory and power and position, and became as nothing. He who was Master and Lord became a slave, to be dealt with harshly, with seemingly no rights, his very life taken unjustly from him. He who was greatest became the least.
Third, “he humbled himself” (v.8a). What greater pride could there be than to be God? But Jesus shed heavenly glory to be born poor in a stable. He who could call on a legion of angels allowed himself to be beaten, spat upon, denigrated. Even in issuing the Great Commission, he has made himself totally dependent upon human beings to bring his salvation to others.
Fourth, he became “obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (v.8b). He gave his all for the Father. He persisted in the mission given him. Even as he dreaded the passion that was to come, he resigned himself to the Father’s will. He willingly suffered and gave his all, including his very life, till there was nothing else to give.
“Because of this, God greatly exalted him” (v.9a). He who was demeaned and laid low was raised up and exalted. And God “bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (v.9b). His name is “Lord.” The one who became a servant was revealed to be Master and Lord. Then “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend” (v.10a). He who bent his knee to wash the feet of his disciples is now the one to whom all bend their knees and bow down before in worship.
A servant leader follows in the example of Jesus. He does not stand on power or position or prestige, he denies himself and is not self-referential, he humbly serves those whom he has been given authority over, he is totally obedient to the commands of God, and he gives his all including his very life.
Because of who Jesus was and what he did and what posture he took, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (v.10-11). As servant leaders, we carry on the salvific work of Jesus. We can only effectively do so as we become true servants. Then we can look to the fruit of our service, to give honor and glory to God, and for all peoples to confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.
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