FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
HUMILITY AND CONCERN
June 19, 2015
2 Corinthians 11:18-30
A primary virtue of a servant leader, because he is one who looks on himself as a servant rather than a privileged leader, is humility. Consider Paul, the great apostle. He was authentically Jewish (2 Cor 11:22), as he was a Jew by race, religion and promise. Moreover, he as minister of Christ suffered a great deal for the cause (2 Cor 11:23-27), which authenticated his call and became his badges of honor. But of all these, he says, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Cor 11:30).
A servant leader must be impressed more by his shortcomings and weaknesses than his accomplishments and capabilities. He must consider how he can serve better rather than rest on his laurels. He must not proudly look to human acclaim but be in fear of not getting the acclaim of God.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Mt 6:19a). Earthly treasures include power, position, perks, acclaim, recognition, honors, awards and the like. These are fleeting and are of the world, “where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.” (Mt 6:19b). You can be acclaimed today and vilified tomorrow. Your carefully-nurtured reputation can be destroyed by liars, maligners and gossipers. But good can come out of these painful situations, if it brings us to humility, and to looking to what is truly of value. “But store up treasures in heaven” (Mt 6:20a). The only acclaim we should look to is God’s, when He finally says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your Master’s joy.”
The other important virtue of a servant leader is concern for the flock. He has been appointed by God in order to care for His sheep. Paul, despite all the hardships he faced, was always mindful of the situation of God’s people. “And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11:28).
In caring for God’s people, the servant leader is mindful of the reality that there are not only many wolves and lions seeking to devour the flock, but there are many inside the Church who can also lead them astray. The enemy is not only diabolical forces outside, but also the enemy within. These are the false teachers and leaders who proclaim a different gospel. “For you gladly put up with fools, since you are wise yourselves. For you put up with it if someone enslaves you, or devours you, or gets the better of you, or puts on airs, or slaps you in the face.” (2 Cor 11:19-20).
People are enslaved not just by cults but also when they relate to leaders in blind obedience rather than active submission. People are devoured when they accept false teaching or when they are in effect driven out of the Church by wrong acts of leaders. People are gotten the better of when leaders take undue advantage of them (monetarily, sexually, with uncalled-for favors, or the like). People put up with leaders who put on airs when they adulate such posturing or even support it with their applause. People are slapped in the face when they as subordinates are not treated with dignity or when their concerns or inputs are just ignored.
A servant leader is mindful and concerned about the above and strives to bring people out of such darkness and into God’s light. God’s people need to see the vision and the mission to which they are called. Without vision a people perish. “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if you eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.” (Mt 6:22-23). If God’s people, not seeing clearly the way to go, are in darkness, then they cannot effectively do God’s work. Then the great darkness upon the world will remain.
A servant leader is concerned about the general well-being of people placed under his care. “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?” (2 Cor 11:29). Servant leadership is a call to give one’s all, according to the example of the Master.
Given all the challenges and hardships of being an authentic servant leader, how do we cope? We look at Jesus, who then looks to us in our humility and poverty. “Look to him and be radiant, and your faces may not blush for shame. This poor one cried out and the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him.” (Ps 34:6-7).
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