FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
THE SUFFERING SERVANT – 2
February 11, 2016
Today’s gospel: Luke 9:22-25
The task of a servant leader is difficult and demanding, especially as we look to the ultimate servant leader, our Lord Jesus Christ. We are his instruments, we do his work, we rely on his strength …. and we suffer as he has suffered. Jesus predicted his passion: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (v.22).
What happened to Jesus was especially heartbreaking. It was not just that he would be rejected and persecuted. That is expected from the outside world that is under the dominion of the enemy and is thus hostile to the faith and to divine values. But it came from those who were inside the church, who were the recognized leaders of the faith. Today those would be the clerics, the parish leaders, the teachers of the faith and the word, the moral theologians and lay community leaders. They are today’s servant leaders.
When people see leaders assaulting others within the Christian community, by way of gossip, maligning, slander and the like, or are themselves the victims, some of them will be disappointed and disgusted, and may want to quit or give up their own service. The better way is to endure and persevere, and be a force for good. How can one endure? It is about the very essence of discipleship. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (v.23).
There are three important elements here.
First, self-denial. A servant is not there in service to himself, but only for God. He is not there for power, position, pay or perks, but only because he is passionate for God’s kingdom. If he looks to his own selfish interests, or his own priorities or agenda, then God cannot really use him that much. When he is able to deny self, then he also does not look to safeguard his reputation, service position or influence. If he is then rejected and persecuted, he remains steadfast, because it is not about him, but about Jesus.
Second, embrace of the cross. A servant is privileged to live the life of Jesus, and that includes the difficulties and hardships of mission. He is not there for comfort, convenience or acclaim, but recognizes and is ready for the demands of serving Jesus, the suffering servant. If he does not recognize or is not ready to accept the life of hardship that is involved, then God can only use him so much, because when trials come, he can easily fall away. Rather then, he sees the cross as a badge of honor, and when faced with it, takes it up and embraces it. Daily.
Third, following Jesus. A servant has only one Master, and that is Jesus. So a servant follows the Master, wherever he goes, whatever he wants done, however it entails difficulties. He does not follow mammon, or secular wisdom, or the clamor of the crowd, or the convenience of the moment. If he does not follow Jesus closely, if he does not keep his eyes fixed on the Master who leads the way, he will lose his way. In following Jesus, he is led all the way to the cross. So while along that path, he is able to endure rejection and persecution.
Is such discipleship, and servant leadership, worth it, given the attendant suffering and pain? Yes, definitely. It is the only way to follow Jesus. It is the only path that is given by God. It is the only sure key to eternal life. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (v.24).
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