I live in a culture which lauds power. In fact I live in a world that lauds power. I have done some traveling and every place I have gone, power, authority, and being on the top of the heap is hoped for and strived after almost universally. Oh, different cultures use different metrics, but striving for the top seems universal.
At its root isn’t that what Adam and Eve longed for when they thought eating the forbidden fruit would make them ‘be like God’ (Genesis 3).
Against this backdrop I read Jesus correcting His disciples, who are jockeying for power in Jesus’ coming kingdom, Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (26-28).
Greatness in God’s kingdom is about service, even ‘slavery’ of others.
These words hit me quite hard today. I don’t think those of us in the church have done a very good job at this. As I look around I see far more emulation of the world and its understanding of power and greatness than I do Jesus who gave life as a ransom for many.
As I thought about this, the poem One Solitary Life by Dr James Allan Francis (© 1926) came to mind. I looked up:
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked in a carpenter shoo until he was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born. He never wrote a book, or held and office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”
Maybe Mother Teresa understood this. Maybe Francis of Assisi understood this. Maybe Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard got this, but most of us, including me, don’t.
I feel God piercing my bubble, what will happen as I go on from here I do not know. I only pray…
Lord, may I have the strength, fortitude, humility and servanthood heart to follow You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.