Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Down and Out Leadership

The disciples had an argument, there at the Last Supper. They were debating which of them would be the most important ruler beside Jesus when His kingdom comes. Jesus calmly said to them, “It is presidents and kings of the world that are concerned about authority and power. These wield great authority over all men and everyone must call them ‘gracious’, as in ‘gracious lord,’ or “Wow, you are the greatest thing since Oprah”. But if you want rule in my kingdom, you can’t act like that. The ones who will have the greatest authority in my kingdom must prepare themselves for it by acting like the least important. If you want to be important, then be like a waiter. In a restaurant, who is in charge, the waiter or the customer? Isn’t the customer who orders the waiter around, telling him what to get and how much and sending something back because it isn’t quite right? And doesn’t the waiter have to run around, doing the bidding of the customer? Now look at me—I am the waiter. I am here to serve others, not to tell others how to serve me.

“Look, guys, you are great already. You have stayed with me during my most difficult days, though all the struggles and trials. Because of this, you will rule with me because the Father has given me His kingdom to rule. So you will be feasting at my side—even as we are feasting here!—in my kingdom. And then I will give you authority to rule all of God’s people. Each of you will sit on a throne, and you will rule the twelve nations of Israel.

Everybody Wants To Rule The World…Sometimes
Well, this is kinda embarrassing. After all, Jesus is the one who is always talking about lowliness, about humility. Yet, here He is, encouraging arrogance. You see, even though he is correcting the disciples about some things, he is in agreement with them about the thing most of us are uncomfortable with: It is a good thing to want to be in charge of the world.

Most of us feel that this is inappropriate. After all, its just too lofty of a goal, and it is straight hubris—blatant pride to think that we should rule the world. That’s God’s job, isn’t it?

Well, in fact, its not. God gave the job over of ruling the world to human beings way back in Genesis 1. It is our job and we should want to do the job that God has given us. So when Jesus answers their question, He doesn’t deny that we should want to rule the world. Frankly, we should.

And even if ruling the world seems distasteful to you, we all have a hint of it in ourselves. We all want to be respected by the people who know us. And we all want a certain measure of control to make things “right” over our lives. And we get angry when we see that something isn’t right, either in our lives or in the lives of those around us. These are God-given characteristics to everyone in humanity so that we can do the job that God gave us, namely, to rule the world.

The Wile E. Principle of Leadership
The problem is that we take the characteristics that God has given us and go too far with it. Waaaaay too far. God gave us anger at injustice and we have turned it into anger against anyone who irritates us for any little reason, without regard to what is really right. God gave us the desire to make things right and we have turned this into control-freakishness or harshly punishing those who are different than us. God gave us the desire to be respected and we turn this into a hunger for fame or a fear of negative responses. This is not the kind of world-leadership Jesus is looking for.

So when Jesus responded to his disciples, he didn’t correct their desire for world leadership. In fact, He affirmed it. He said that they would be world leaders in the kingdom. And desiring it is a good thing. What he needed to correct was their methods in achieving it.
Most of us think of obtaining leadership like Wile E. Coyote. Wile E. is on one cliff and he is running as fast as he can to the other side, but he doesn’t realize that there is a canyon between him and the other cliff-top. So he runs out.. and there he is, standing on thin air. And then he falls…. Bam!... at the bottom of the canyon and we next see him wrapped in hospital gauze.

Even so, we often think that leadership—as well as wealth and popularity— is a straight line. If we want it, we just go get it. And although we must work hard to achieve success, we will get it if we just take it by the throat. But what we don’t realize is that there is a huge canyon between us and our goal. And if we just try to achieve success in a straight line, then we will be the one in hospital gauze.

The Power Broker
Jesus helps us realize that the only one who can give us success, or power or popularity or wealth— in any positive, permanent way—is God. He is the one ultimately in charge of all things and He gives these things to whom He wills. And while the power-hungry may be in charge now, it will not be that way forever. God will come down to kick out the power hungry and instead welcome a different kind of person.

But to obtain that kind of position, we have to be that different kind of person. God is looking for the lowly, the Anawim, to be in charge of the world. God can’t have the control freaks, the judgmental, the quick to anger or the anxious be in charge of the world. So for world leadership, God is looking for a the lowly and righteous. For the Anawim. God is looking for the people who will act as Jesus said they should—People who are repentant of their sins; people who will sacrifice their life, family and possessions to love Jesus; people who will endure in Jesus through persecution. People who will set aside their comfort in order to serve others. God is looking for faithful disciples.

Jesus Leadership
But not just disciples. Different disciples will obtain different levels of leadership in the final kingdom. And those in charge won’t just be the good disciple—the whole world will be filled with those. But the world leaders will be those who have certain characteristics of leadership
To be an anawimic leader, we have to follow certain principles of leadership now:

Hang out with the down and out—To be a leader in Jesus’ methodology, we cannot be shy of having the outcast be our friends and companions.

Live like the down and out—To be in charge, we have to remain lowly, not seeking wealth or power, but constantly giving to those in need. A godly leader doesn’t think how he can benefit from a resource, but how the whole community can benefit from it.

Get used to taking orders—To be in charge, we have to listen to other’s needs and act on them, rather than our own ambitions. When we see someone’s need, we take that as an order from them to act. If we act in accordance with the other’s need, then we are living out Jesus’ leadership.

Lead by example—It isn’t enough to tell others to do good, to repent, to live purely—we have to do it ourselves. We must show the life of Jesus and not just teach it to others.

Encourage, don’t demand—To be Jesus leader is to be gentle and to recognize other’s freedom to do as they please. If we give others freedom and opportunity to live for God, then they can have a relationship with God. But if we end up controlling others, they have no relationship with God, only us, which defeats the purpose of trying to get people to live for Jesus.

So to be a leader in Christ is to be the Anawim. It is to live as a waiter, a servant of others, only living to act for others and not for our own ambition. If we attempt to get our own ambition, then we end up like Wile E.— Falling to our doom.

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