Leadership: Jesus our great example! – Part 1
In this series, we are going to focus on the leadership aspects of Jesus through these lenses: servant leadership, humility and obedience, love and discipleship. However, we need to state that leadership at whatever level in life is very challenging: family, group, Church, Community, organisation or the nations of the world. Indeed, the essence of leadership is to influence and get things done for the common good.
Unfortunately, the worldly conception of leadership seems to suggest that one can use his position to the detriment of others. Therefore, some people in leadership position are sometimes tyrannical, autocratic, cheat and intimidate rather than leading and serving the people. No doubt, God blessed Nigeria with abundant material, human and natural resources; yet, the state of affairs suggests we have not gotten leadership right. Recently, in some quarters, people are calling for restructuring. Why? Achebe noted and rightly, too, that the trouble with Nigeria is leadership. Necessarily, Jesus says: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you”, (Luke 22:25-26). Remember, when a bad ruler is in power, “the people groan or mourn” (Proverbs 29: 2b).
Therefore, to get leadership right, we need to follow Jesus’ example, first on servanthood. Read these Bible texts: Luke 22:27, John 13:4-5. The gospel recorded by St. Luke in chapter 22 made us to know that before the Passover, Jesus had planned to have a feast with His disciples and He had an understanding with the owner of the house, where the feast was to be held. But as somebody who would not allow anything to chance, He sent Peter and John to tidy the preparations. Some Bible commentators say that Peter and John were sent with a coded message thus: “as you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you, follow him to the house and ask him the guest room for the teacher for the Passover with the disciples, (Luke 22:10-11) and it was so. We recall also during His Triumphant entry, Jesus had also used a coded message to His disciples, see, (Luke 19:30-34).
Expectedly, Peter and John made the preparation for the Passover in the upper room of the guest room, but did not secure the services of a servant who would stand at the door entrance to give guests water for ritual cleaning according to Jewish tradition. Rather, they were pre-occupied with the question of who would betray Jesus at the meal or who would be greatest in His kingdom, (Luke 22:23-24). Indeed, by not procuring the services of a servant for the meal, Jesus the leader now became the substantive servant. The gospel according to St. John stated clearly: “He rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round Him” (John 13:4-5). The action of Jesus amazed His disciples and should amaze us, too. Even Peter’s protest for Him not to wash his feet could not be entertained, so, he volunteered that his feet, hands and head as well be washed, (John 13:8-9). What can we say? “True greatness lies in service”. Jesus Himself says: “just as the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many, (Matt. 20:28). But we pause to ask: “is it easy to put on the garb of a servant as a leader?”
Today, we have problems both in the world and in the Church. For, there are some leaders who see themselves as chief Executives, Masters and not servants of the people. There are some others who intimidate, harass, oppress, cheat and do some unprintable things in the name of leadership. Yet, there are some others who boast about their educational qualifications. Yet for Jesus: “For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves”, (Luke 22:27). Notice, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”, (James 4:6,1 Peter 5:5).
Therefore, we need leaders that can follow in the Master’s footsteps in the area of servant hood. Such leaders, whether in the Church or society, should serve with all their hearts. They need to ask the Holy Spirit to come and assist them to be humble enough in service.
Ven. Ernest Onuoha,Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.