When we think of leaders such as a king, a president, a prime minister, or perhaps any leader, we think of someone who sits comfortably on a cushy chair commanding people and calling the shots. Well, indeed, because they are leaders, they really ought to do that, and being high and mighty does not necessarily mean they are bad leaders. Perhaps they have the stature of a leader. But when you read the Bible, you know that the leadership that Jesus wants us to imitate in Him is not the kind of leadership where we just command people or lead people from a standpoint of position. The kind of leadership that we ought to have is a servant kind of leadership.
One of the best references that we can find in the Bible regarding servant leadership is found in Mark 10:35-45. James and John were aiming for a position—they asked Jesus if they could sit, one at His right and the other at His left, in His glory. In other words, they wanted to be great. But a couple of verses after that, you will find Jesus telling them that if one wants to be great, one ought to serve others (Mark 10:43). It gives us the sense that the common mindset of mankind concerning being a great leader is that it is all about the position; that one needs to be a king or a high ranking official – or perhaps, in our context, that one needs to be in the pulpit – in order to be a great leader. Yet Jesus tells us that great leadership is not measured by position but by serving others. Jesus also pointed out that being great does not just mean exercising authority as the Gentile lords did. Sometimes we think that one is a great leader because of the authority that a person has (Mark 10:42). If one is a follower of Jesus, one does not lead mainly by position and authority. Don’t take this wrong. There is nothing wrong with authority; in fact, the church leaders God has placed over us have authority. But one ought to lead by serving. That is how we change the world by serving and loving others. Jesus gives us an unimaginable path toward greatness, and it is the reverse of what we thought it would be. Instead of going up, we ought to go down to serve others. And instead of thinking of ourselves, our position, and our authority, we ought to think about others and be selfless.
The greatest example of this is, of course, Jesus himself. Jesus is King; He is God. When He came down to earth to dwell with us, He could have forced us and imposed on us, using His authority, to serve Him and just do whatever He says, like an abusive king you might find in the movies. Mankind should be serving Jesus since He is King, but it is the other way around. Jesus serves us, which is why He gave His life for us (Mark 10:45). Why would God wash the feet of His disciples if not for His servant heart? If Jesus served us, we should also serve others (John 13:12-15). Perhaps it is an uncomfortable thing to do, not to mention it is also hard. But the thing is, God has always made His grace available to us so that we may be able to lead others by also serving them. His grace is enabling as well as sustaining. The Holy Spirit is also there to help us.