“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 ESV)
One aspect of our present age is that we human beings strive to be in authority over others. This is something that transcends culture and ethnicity. The history of the world is filled with tyranny and oppression. Even here in the United States our politicians crave power and the benefits it brings.
Sadly enough, even in the church we see this will to power exhibited. Witness the Roman Catholic Church which has evolved into an imperial hierarchy with the pope at the head and the bishops as lords over their own territory. Clearly the Roman hierarchy is a result of the unholy marriage between the church and the Roman Empire. Even in some Protestant churches we see what can be called “cults of personality;” strong, charismatic leaders who exert an inordinate amount of pull and authority over a local congregation. Another example of this will to power is seen in the phenomenon of ‘multi-site’ churches where one pastor’s teaching becomes the spiritual food for several church campuses.
All of these are examples of what Jesus means when he says, “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,and their great ones exercise authority over them.” All of human history since the fall has been one continuous tale of the exercise (and abuse) of power by some over others.
However, in the Kingdom of God, leadership is not a case of the exercise of power, but one of the exercise of service! The greatest among us is the one who serves; the first among us is slave to all! This is evident in the example of our Lord himself. He came to serve, not to be served. Jesus Christ, as the Son of God and Creator of the universe, is worthy of our praise and worship. He is worthy of our complete obedience. All that we have has come from his hand. If anyone should be served, it is he, not us! Yet what does Jesus do during his earthly ministry? He serves! More than that, he gives his life as a ransom for many! He to whom all praise and honor and glory should be given sacrifices his life for unworthy sinners!
The church, which is the manifestation of the Kingdom of God during this age, is to be a reflection of this servant-leadership model. Elders lead by serving the flock. Masters lead by looking out for the best interests of their slaves. Husbands lead by loving their wives. Parents lead by raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In each case, the paradigm for leadership is that the one who is in the position of authority works for the betterment of the one who is in the submissive role. Furthermore, the service done by the one in the position of authority is done out of love for the one in submission, not to Lord it over them. When seen from this perspective, who wouldn’t follow someone they knew had their best interests at heart? The world’s leadership model is based on fear and power, but the Kingdom’s leadership model is based on love and service; which our Lord modeled with his very life!
Soli Deo Gloria!