I co-teach a 7th grade (very soon to be 8th grade) girls Bible Study on Sunday morning. Man, these are some smart girls. They teach me something every week. Today we studied the lesson Jesus taught James and John about greatness (Mark 10). Basically, these two Christ followers were negotiating for the #2 & #3 spots in Jesus’ chain of command when as they still imagined he would assume his earthly throne.
Jesus’ response is to remind them that in their Roman world, leaders lorded their authority over their followers in a mighty way. He emphatically tells James and John that among his followers, greatness and leadership shouldn’t look anything like that. We all know this by now . . . if you want to be first, you have to be last. We must be a servant of ALL. Makes a great Sunday School lesson. Nice and clean.
I asked the girls to think about their world, their families, school, etc. and list what “their world’s greatness” looks like today and then contrast that with what Christ’s greatness would look like. What does it look like as a 7th grade girl? What does it look like as a 41 year old woman? What should it look like in the church? What should it look like as Christian leaders living in the world? (Can’t help but think about the interesting play of the Church & Politics here. . .) Should’ve been a fairly simple exercise. It really wasn’t. When I asked them to think of specific people they know who live out this list on a regular basis, it got even tougher. (parents & grandparents you all were mentioned!)
It is still such a counter culture message that we just don’t get it, do we? If it really were more than a passing intellectual exercise, we would be living in a completely different world. Imagine what this world would be like if all those who follow Christ really lived it out. Wouldn’t The Church be the most amazing thing to be apart of? What if the corporate body of Christ and all the individuals who profess Him really considered the interests of others before they considered their own? Considered that there are children dying of curable illnesses, people dying for lack of drinkable water, children who don’t have anyone to to keep them safe and provide for their needs, considered that there are billions who will go to sleep tonight without knowing they are dearly loved by their creator.
It can’t be a coincidence that Jesus’ response to James and John’s question wasn’t just about humility and service but it was also about suffering. He knew they didn’t really understand what his kind of ‘throne’ would cost Him. He knew they didn’t have the faith in that moment to choose the road He was walking down. He also knew that eventually they would have that understanding and faith and eventually they would suffer themselves for His sake.
I wonder, what are the areas in my life where I should be considering the needs of others before I consider my own? In what areas of my life do I feel the pain of the consequence of putting other’s needs before mine? I don’t think giving my old clothes that I’m not going to wear counts. I don’t think giving extra money that would just go to Starbucks counts. I think he’s calling us to make choices that have real impact. We should feel that, shouldn’t we? Seems to me that the world needs to feel it . . .