Read Matthew 20
Focus on verse 25-28
I believe it was John Maxwell who made popular the proverb, “He who leadeth, but no one followeth, merely taketh a walk.” Maxwell goes on to define leadership as influence. Leaders influence people one of two ways. The best leaders earn the love and respect of the people who follow them. The worst leaders intimidate people into following by instilling fear. The word used to describe fear-based leadership is tyranny. Most dictatorships eventually deteriorate into a form of tyranny, whereas leaders who are elected by more democratic process tend to have to earn the respect and trust of the people to effectively lead them.
In today’s reading Jesus teaches on the subject of leadership.
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 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 your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (v. 25-28)
What had happened just prior to this was that the mother of James and John had approached Jesus and requested that her sons be given cabinet positions when Jesus set up His kingdom. Interestingly Jesus did not really rebuke her, but did warn that she did not know what she was asking. When the other ten disciples heard about it, they were put off – possibly to some degree, because they had not thought of it first! It is in response to this kerfuffle in the ranks that Jesus sets them straight about how things will be in His kingdom.
In His response, Jesus describes the kind of leadership that should be evident among those who follow choose to follow Him. Unfortunately, this is not always the case within churches and groups of people who claim to be His followers. There are, however, exceptions and it is a wonderful thing to experience truly Christ-like leadership.
When we all genuinely serve each other, looking out for the interests of others as more important than our own, we are all looked after, because unconditional love is the motivating factor. Conversely, when our chief motivation is to serve ourselves, some will suffer while others abuse and everyone fears they will not get what they think they deserve.
This is often the difference between a true leader and one who is “merely taking a walk”. A weak leader will often default to the use of fear to motivate those under his or her authority to fulfill their obligations because it is easier to make them afraid than it is to earn their love and trust. A strong leader understands that when those under his or her authority believe that the leader genuinely is interested in their well being, they will work harder to fulfill their obligations in order to please the leader than those who simply do what they are told because they are afraid not to.
The bottom line really comes back to the fact that love is more powerful than fear, and remains the only force in the world that can truly conquer fear.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)