The Way Up Is Down

From family to business to civic matters, leadership threads its way in and out of our lives.

This past Fourth of July holiday, we gratefully considered the leaders who founded this great nation. This election year, we consider national leadership—leadership styles, personnel, priorities, and possibilities.

But there’s one model of leadership we seldom think to visit or consider.

The life and teaching of Jesus Christ, well attested by scholars and skeptics, reveal much about leaders and leadership. Choosing twelve men to shadow him, Jesus would soon hand his work and the leadership of his “enterprise,” the Church, to these disciples.

These men had a leadership model but not a good one. “Those considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,” Jesus said, “and their great ones exercise authority over them.” In other words, observe Roman authorities making the lives of their subjects miserable.

Turning from Rome’s uncivility, Jesus pointed to a new model. “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

Imagine! Leaders who genuinely serve their subjects, who authentically consider those in their care! Jesus turned conventional wisdom up-side down. In Jesus’ kingdom, the way up is down. The greatest stoop to genuinely serve, exercising authority by meeting needs of those who matter.

Jesus backed his words with action! Speaking of his own mission, he said: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ death on a cruel Roman cross demonstrated the ultimate act of serving as he sacrificed his own life in our place.

Follow him today into life. And follow him into genuine leadership.

Scripture taken from Mark 10:42-45

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