February 09, 2017

Christians Go First

“At first I thought the Christian calling is just to get ‘saved.’ Then I thought the Christian calling is to get others ‘saved.’ Now I’m wondering: what exactly is the Christian calling?"

Good question! I’m blessed to spend a lot of time hanging out with millennials, believers and doubters all of us, discipling and being discipled, as we struggle together in the Way. Typically the questions are more challenging, but not more important. And lots of responses come to mind now: Micah 6:8, James 1:27, as well as a number of passages from Jesus, Paul, and even NT Wright. But yesterday my mind immediately went to the management course I teach on Servant Leadership.

Without saying so, of course, the entire course is based on a single passage of Scripture:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be held on to, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”—Philippians 2

This is one of the most profound, work / home / nation / world-transforming passages in all of Scripture. What does it mean to be a human? To be a servant. What is required of servants? Two things: humility and self-sacrifice. How is this taught? It’s not taught but caught; and “leaders go first”—the mantra of my course.

Leaders go first. That’s what Jesus did. He showed us what it looks like to live humbly and to give up our own desires, rights, powers, possessions, life itself, for the sake of others, even, especially, those who hate us and persecute us. For a while, it’s a losing proposition, to be sure, but the end game is a win-win: I serve you because I consider you more highly than myself and you serve me because you consider me more highly than yourself.  

Jesus went first, and Christians go second. This is what it means to be a Christian: to follow Christ. This, then, is our duty: to serve others, washing the feet of our friends, laying down our lives for our enemies. And this is love, which sums up all our religion. In the end, not necessarily in this life, love, and love alone, wins, as we all fall in line behind our Servant Leader. As for the saving, that’s God’s business.

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