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Why is humility central to the Christian vision of leadership? In today’s text, Peter finishes his instructions to early followers of Jesus who were in leadership roles. His teaching is crystal clear: everyone – inexperienced and veteran leaders alike – must embrace humility as the essential quality that defines his or her leadership. But, why is this so?
I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a “lead servant” in my last series of reflections. I prefer the phrase “lead servant” to “servant leadership” because the former puts primary emphasis back on servanthood rather than on leadership. I find that the wording matters. For me, it is a helpful corrective to our cultural obsession – and if I am honest, my own personal obsession – with learning how to “take charge” as a leader rather than with learning what it means to be a servant.
I’ve been reflecting on Jesus teaching on leadership in the context of Peter’s denial and subsequent restoration. The picture of Peter’s early leadership experience isn’t pretty, much like the experience of a child learning to crawl and walk. Peter isn’t held up as a great moral example to follow. Nor is his denial simply presented as a warning of what not to do. The truth, as it often is with Jesus, is more complex. We are given a real-world picture of the difficult process of becoming a “lead servant”.
Does our text today seem odd to you as a way to begin Peter’s instruction to early church leaders? It does to me. Peter had experienced Jesus’ forgiveness despite his failure under pressure.
During the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers, we saw an example of what that looks like in the work of the Fire Department of New York.
One of my favorite scenes from George Lucas’ Star Wars anthology is when Luke Skywalker first meets Yoda. Luke is expecting to train with a master Jedi warrior. Instead he finds a strangely decrepit creature that seems more like comic relief than someone who can help him learn how to become a Jedi knight. At one point Luke says in frustration, “I don’t even know what I’m doing here…”
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