The deeper I get into indulging into kingdom talk and understanding what the kingdom of God is all about, the more I feel like I’m going back to being a little kid living in the realm of opposite day. I’m sure we all remember what that was like; when our yes meant no and we wore our pants backwards. The kingdom seems to be everything opposite from what most people say, from what the newspapers say and a lot of times from what I default to.
One way I notice this in regards to leadership. Normally, what we are used to is the loud people being in leadership; the people that can command and tell us what to do. The captain of our sports teams are the ones that portray confidence and can delegate well. The King of Israel was there because the nation of Israel wanted a visible leader, they wanted someone to make decisions for them and they wanted a representative for them for God. The newer breeds of denominations have senior pastors; someone who in many ways stands above the rest of the congregation and leads them on a journey with everyone, including the board and deacons, following close behind. Armies want a general who knows what he wants when he wants it and can tell people what to do. People look up to the president of the United States as if he is the end all and be all of any decision, and the president takes advantage of this too. If you watch a classroom discussion unfold you will quickly notice who takes charge of the conversation. There are examples everywhere of leadership. However, Jesus seems to set a new standard for what it takes to be a leader.
Jesus flips everything on its head. He says that whoever wants to be first must be last. Whoever wants to be first must become the servant of all. In our way of thinking, this makes absolutely no sense. Our idea of first is to be on top of everyone; leading everyone. We think that when people look up to us in leadership that we are first. Some of us demand that we get called by our proper title like pastor, reverend or doctor, as if that title somehow makes us greater than the person calling us it. It amazes me when people want to be on leadership as if it’s the end of the world. Or when people think they deserve to be on leadership. I’m still convinced that some of the best leaders are unknown because no one knows about them and they are secretly leading the kingdom of God forward while doing everything for God and not man. It’s funny because while Jesus tells us that the first shall be last, I don’t think we really believe him. We constantly gloat when we are lifted up in praise above others. We love the feeling of being recognized as accomplished something or being the first to do something special. We love being first, especially when that means that others are second and third and so on. If what Jesus really said was true, then all we are doing is feeling proud of being last in the Kingdom. We gain our security by being first here, but last in the Kingdom. Who ever heard of someone rejoicing because they got last? Unless we aren’t doing a very good job of actually living in the Kingdom?
Imagine if we didn’t care if people saw us or not. I wonder what we would still accomplish if we only did things in secret. I wonder how much of what I do is for recognition and because I want to be noticed or is actually for the kingdom. Sometimes I wonder how much of a leader I really am in the kingdom sense of the word. I constantly fool myself by thinking that the people I know, the knowledge I know and the things I do actually somehow make me who I am and make me a better person. If we find ourselves constantly desiring to be in front of people, or to be seen as a leader, then I would question quickly if we should be in leadership at all. The best leaders are not the self-promoted ones but the leaders who are put there by the very people that they are leading.
I pray that we all learn the art of servant hood and becoming last, because I feel that not many of us are comfortable being somewhere that only rewards us now with a participation ribbon. I think that if we all intentionally tried to do good without doing it in front of people like a show, or that if we all intentionally started putting people’s needs in front of our own desires to be seen and heard, or if we all stopped caring who is the greatest and just started becoming a servant of all then we’d actually start to see more and more of the Kingdom of God taking over all of the areas that have been infiltrated by culture and our own desires to be someone that we aren’t.