Weekly Bible Devotional
“Inflation & the Cycle of Blessings: The Currency of Gracious Leadership”
October 30, 2022
Scripture: John 13:13-17
13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Notes on the Text:
As Jesus was preparing to leave his disciples, he gave them words and actions to help them follow in his footsteps of leadership. In chapter 13, Jesus did something radical. He washed the feet of the disciples. He showed them his love through an act of humble service. Jesus left a powerful example of servant leadership for his disciples. Acts of service are so powerful that it is hard to miss their point. As their leader, Jesus would have been the last person expected to wash their feet. This was the job of a servant in the household and not the leader. But his lesson of humble service became a powerful example of love for generations to come.
The words for our text for this week follow this incredible example of gracious leadership. Jesus saw that leadership was possible for all of his disciples. In fact, he believed that they could do greater things than he did among them according to John 14:12 “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” Jesus mentored his disciples to show them his way of leadership and of getting to the heart of our human problems. He fully expected them to step up and become leaders after he left them. It didn’t matter to him that they were mostly simple folk who had simple jobs and came from humble origins. He knew that each human being has the potential to lead others because each human being has the potential to serve others.
Leadership for Jesus was about the ability to focus on God’s love, to reach out in that love, and to work with others to embrace that love. Jesus’ mission was that of healing the world by helping others to see all of life through the lens of God’s eternal love. The challenge for the disciples was to follow in his footsteps on the path of love through humble service.
Jesus knew that the challenge ahead of them was great. He knew that the temptations of the world to see power, security, and esteem would be so difficult, but he also knew that once his disciples experienced deep and unconditional love, their potential would be activated and sustained. Even when the disciples stumbled, their inner compass was strongly connected to love that it guided them back to the way of Jesus.
We focus this week on the currency of gracious leadership. Leadership is often misunderstood in our world as there are so many different expectations for leaders. We often think of leadership as a solitary act or that some people are born with leadership potential while others are not.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct,” gives us a good perspective on leadership. In this sermon, King talks about how some people think that to be a leader is to get recognition, importance, power, and glory. He said, “And there is, deep down within all of us, an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs a whole gamut of life.” Yet, this drum major instinct can lead us to egotism, boastfulness, narcissism; and selfishness. The drum major instinct can lead to feelings of superiority. King offered some insights into the nature of this different attitude. True leadership is not bestowed, rather,
“You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism but by fitness…If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it…by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”
Love in the way of Jesus is not weak. It is, I believe, the strongest force in the universe. Yet, it is always humble and willing to grow, share, and learn. Gracious leadership in the way of Jesus is all about our relationships, respect, collaboration, and caring conversations. In this way of leadership, we never fall for the illusion that one of us could have all the answers and that all we have to do is just follow that person. We are in this work of gracious leadership together and each of us has something to offer to the whole and yet each of us needs the whole in order to fulfill their calling.
Blessing for a Leader by John O’Donohue:
May you have the grace and wisdom to act kindly, learning to distinguish between what is personal and what is not.
May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the center of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.
May you work on yourself, building up and refining the ways of your mind.
May those who work for you know you see and respect them.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence in order to engage with those who meet you.
When someone fails or disappoints you, may the graciousness with which you engage be their stairway to renewal and refinement.
May you treasure the gifts of the mind through reading and creative thinking so that you continue as a servant of the frontier
Where the new will draw its enrichment from the old, and you never become a functionary.
May you know the wisdom of deep listening, the healing of wholesome words, the encouragement of the appreciative gaze, the decorum of held dignity, the springtime edge of the bleak question.
May you have a mind that loves frontiers so that you can evoke the bright fields that lie beyond the view of the regular eye.
May you have good friends to mirror your blind spots.
May leadership be for you a true adventure of growth. Amen.