The pendulum is swinging
"That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination
In the Old Testament we had an external law -– 'spirituality'
was externally visible, measurable and 'judgeable...'. Jesus' new
commandment fulfils the old law, but dramatically redefines what it means to
Lets approach this topic by looking at what spirituality is
not: for many of us, it represents that mystical position we
aspire to, where having gained insights of great significance, we exercise our
right to teach others...very often from a high hobby horse or favourite place
'above' those we wish to lead. Now the challenge. What is it which gives a
leader or teacher the right to speak into another person's life? Where does
the authority to lead come from? How far does a leaders authority extend before
it becomes illegitimate control. The simple answer: ultimately all authority
comes from God. But, where there is the legitimate, there is also the
illegitimate. Where there is the genuine or the real, there is opportunity for
the counterfeit. It is extremely easy to start in the spirit and end in the
flesh. We have a friend who gave up his Christian walk, his wife and children,
his very successful business and lifestyle to join a pseudo Christian cult...his
daily life now consists of performing menial tasks out of service for a
spiritual leader who just happens to be super wealthy and very clever. The
relationship started out Christian enough -– but this all changed when the
leader stopped serving (Biblically 'ministering') and started demanding
Growing up, our family visited many Church denominations. It
was evident to me that many pulpits were occupied by people who had an abundance
of knowledge in all sorts of areas, and could certainly keep you sitting in the
pews whilst they expounded their insights. What was uncommon was to find a
speaker whose 'pulpit life' was marked by the spirit of Christ -– shown in
their 'civilian life' through their capacity to serve others.
We can define 'serving others' as we wish -– I think
Jesus example is probably the most accurate definition.
The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet -– and I
believe that the same principle applies to all spiritual roles. We should
therefore not allow our ego's to customise a spirituality which is contrary to
the spirit in which Jesus came to man -– He came not to rule, but to serve. The
most beautiful paradox emerges when a leader chooses to serve. This
choice creates an incredibly powerful dynamic. Jesus knew that 'serving'
was the most effective tool for changing the world. Furthermore, serving would
preserve leaders from falling into the snare of self importance.
Anybody who has been involved in leadership roles will
understand that at times it can be a lonely and hurtful experience...issues
arise where people feel aggrieved or hurt. Jesus special call to servant hood
makes a huge difference. From a position of servant hood, forgiveness is much
more accessible. CS Lewis wrote "To be a Christian means to forgive the
inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you". In short, our
ability to move on from offence is the benchmark of our own acceptance and
understanding of God's grace. And who better to stand and speak for Christ
than those who understand His wondrous gift. Sadly, many leaders are too busy
trying to vindicate themselves that they lose sight of the Jesus style.
Cain killed Abel in his misguided effort to prove to God 'he
was more spiritual than his brother'. Before I condemn Cain for being carnal
and primitive or just plain stupid, I am reminded of my own jealousy toward
people in 'spiritual positions'... My judgemental preoccupation with those
who seemed to have God's favour was nothing more than old fashioned jealousy
-– and sometimes I had the audacity to cover my green envious tracks
with spiritual overtones. Again, we need to turn from self importance to 'going
about our Fathers business', always remembering to take heed: "Let him that
thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" 1 Corinthians 10:12.
Part of our human condition is that we would dare to take
personal kudos through spiritually lording it over our peers. Very often,
it is those of us who seek to teach others who have need of a teacher. Those of
us who are spiritually 'right' and mature in our own eyes, who need the
physician. Those of us who are dogmatic and full our own sense of 'correctness'
who need to be quietened down and taught by the 'Gentle Shepherd'. The
Gentle Shepherd is easily recognised - giving His life for His sheep. Jesus
example is so unpopular -– it doesn't fit Western business models...as we all
know, it is much easier to expect to be served than to serve.
God's method for keeping us in voluntary humility is
seen in Scriptures like Deuteronomy 1:17 "Ye shall not respect persons in
judgement; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be
afraid of the face of man; for the judgement is God's". Psalm 8:2 "...out
of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength...". Indeed,
we can be taught powerful truths through unlearned junior citizens...provided we
are 'open to hearing'.
One of the biggest hindrances 'servants' face is the
pressure from peers to stop serving...you can determine why this occurs for
yourself. Lewis Smedes describes an attitude I seek "One of the fine arts of
gracious living is the art of living freely with our critics. When we have the
grace to be free in the presence of those who judge our lives and evaluate our
actions, we have Christian freedom". And with clean motives, we can go about
When all is said and done, the vindication each of us needs
must come from outside of ourselves -– genuine authority is not self
proclaimed. This vindication or seal of God's favour and presence is not ours
to manufacture or control -– God gives it to us.
One of God's character revealing Names is Yahweh Nissi -–
The Lord Our Banner. Our acceptance and application of this wonderful Name
ensures our own self importance is kept in check -– and we can have our faults
and foibles, but be truly spiritual as we serve one another.