True leaders serve, and leaders who serve stand out. Not because they position themselves for attention, but because their humility contrasts with our expectations.
Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.” (Mark 10:42-43a NIV)
Give someone power, and they will put others down. Not so with you, Jesus said, and this is working looking into, because like the first disciples of Jesus, we often position ourselves for the greatest benefits available. James and John lobbied for closer ties to power, unaware of how deadly that would be. The other ten were miffed at their brazen attitudes, likely because it undercut their own aspirations for glory.
And so Jesus draws out the contrast. Yes, jostling for position is how things work in the cultures and kingdoms of this world. “But among you it will be different.” (NLT)
Among you, it will be different. That’s what Jesus said.
Following me will not be about advancement or achievement.
You will lead in a different way.
You will position yourself for sacrificial service.
You will place yourself last, just as I have done for you.
And when you lead, you will not seek your own benefits–you will seek the benefit of others. Why? Because that’s how I led, and I’m calling you to follow me.
In short, we lead like the One we follow.
Look around. Is that the kind of leadership you see? How do people lead at work? What does leadership look like in your family? In your school? How about your church? Your city? Does leadership look like the humble service Jesus demonstrated? I’m thankful for servant leaders I’ve seen in business and education, politics and church. We should encourage them. But when people take advantage of their position, we must resist our natural urge to meet it with anger or pride, mimicking the way of power and pushing for our own advantage.
Instead, lead differently. Reject one-ups and put downs. Give away benefit. Serve without recourse. Offer Jesus’ grace without fanfare. Be humble. Serve like Jesus.
It’ll be hard. It’ll hurt, lots of times. People will abuse your grace. Friends accustomed to taking advantage will do so. Your sacrifice will go unnoticed. Lead and serve like Jesus anyway.
Because really, there’s no alternative for Jesus followers. Jesus said to us, “That whole power thing? It won’t be that way with you.” Instead of “lording” over others, especially when we have power, Jesus shows that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45 NIV)
We humbly serve because Jesus humbly served. He is our leader. We follow him. Fact is, Jesus accomplished salvation for us through his service to us. And he calls us to continue the same: showing his salvation to others through our service to others. How we lead does stand out, and when we lead with the humility of Jesus, it’s his grace that will get noticed.
Rejecting power advantages is counter-cultural. Serving when it hurts us is hard. But it’s the way of true greatness. And as followers of Jesus, it’s the only way Jesus is leading.