AS we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King this Sunday, the gospel (Luke 23:35-43) tells us what kingship is all about and what to expect from those we serve and try to lead.
It is important to understand that for Christians, the meaning of kingship should be taken in the context of the life and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 9:23). Simply put, it meant that kingship or leadership is a responsibility towards all, especially the downtrodden, and not a privilege for the ruling few. Kingship is leadership through service. A leader is the one who serves, not the one being served.
As a justification of our Christian faith, a true leader is one who serves the poor, deprived and the oppressed for it is in them, in the midst of their sufferings; that one finds God and his temple. This is why it is in our nature to yearn for God when we are down, troubled or sick – when we are in a fix or in the sunset of our lives.
It is not just a coincidence but rather symbolic that Jesus, during his crucifixion, was flanked by two dying criminals, social outcasts who were fated to suffer and also die on the cross due to their crimes. One of these two criminals, in his dying moments, repented and was accepted into the Kingdom of God. The other remained defiant and was forgotten. This situation also meant to show that whenever everything is gone, for many, only God matters.
The presence of the two similarly situated criminals was also proof that humanity was gifted by God with a freewill and that there is a consequence on how we use that gift. One used his gift to be defiant and consequently was forgotten while the other chose to be repentant and was saved in the end.
Furthermore, this incident is a perfect example of humanity’s dual character – the inherent capacity to be good and the developed propensity to be bad. It also shows that our creator is an accepting and forgiving God. His mercy is boundless, as long as we humbly and sincerely repent, no matter what, we will be forgiven.
Being a servant-leader is not for the faint of heart. If one is to be a faithful servant-leader, then one must not be constrained by the status quo nor be afraid to challenge long held beliefs, customs or traditions – even the law, when it is unjust and oppressive. For this resoluteness, Jesus was crucified and sentenced for being “King of the Jews,” a political offense during Roman times that carries the death penalty through crucifixion.
Crucifixion, it must be pointed out, was a punishment exclusively meted to rebels and those who commit crimes against the Roman Empire. However, the two criminals who were executed together with Jesus were the exceptions to that general rule. They were there to further humiliate and degrade Jesus’ status as a teacher in the eyes of the Jewish people. Their presence was meant to be a supreme insult to Jesus.
Jesus’ example on the cross meant that a servant-leader cannot be timid in rendering service and do what is good and just. The servant-leader should be able to read the signs of the times, angry, decisive, and bold just like when Jesus whipped the merchants from the temple (Matt. 21:12) or calm and composed like when he healed the servant of a priest whose ear was cut off by one of his apostles (Luke 22:50-51). If being militant or passive is what is required from a faithful servant-leader of God, then so be it. A servant-leader is flexible.
Being a servant-leader is a vocation. One should have no expectation of any reward except for the joy one experiences in serving others. Rendering service often times is like a crooked road that seems to lead nowhere except perdition. But just like the sun that shines after a thunderstorm so is the joy of serving in the name of Jesus, radiant and beautiful.
Moreover, it is mockery, jeers and insults that should be expected by servant-leaders just like Jesus was sneered and mocked by the people, leaders, priest and soldiers at the crucifixion site. Actually, these are the typical rewards of servant-leaders. These, however, are justifications of a servant-leader’s faith in God.
A servant-leader must emulate Jesus’ examples otherwise one cannot lead. Those who desire to lead must first and foremost be servants before anything else. One must be prepared to live up to the standards Jesus set.
That is what the Christian leadership challenge is all about. Do you accept this challenge?