When it comes to leadership, there should be a marked difference between the Christian community and secular governments and organizations. Ambition often leads people to take exceptional, even unethical steps to get ahead. It often leads to position which is undergirded by power. Worldly power is one of the most dangerous and potentially lethal forces in life. As Lord Acton said it tends to corrupt, and when it is absolute, it corrupts absolutely. Human experience shows clearly the evils brought to humanity by people who craved power, even to the point of their own downfall.
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” With these words in our gospel this weekend, Jesus speaks with incredible insight. Status was to have no place in the reign of God; it was to be absent from the church. Those who exercise authority in the community are not to resemble the “rulers of this world, who lord it over them.” It is sad to note that in the history of Christianity this clear teaching of Jesus was frequently neglected. While it is true that many Christians who grasped the authentic spirit have left an inspiring legacy of service, it is also true that others have used the church to further their own personal aims. They have sought to be served rather than to serve. It is surely very likely that many of those responsible for outrageous acts of abuse in the Church, did so because they felt immune in their positions of power, knowing they would never be challenged.
As Jesus makes clear to his followers in today’s gospel, disciples are called to serve, even to death if necessary, and the service they render will bring with it no human acclaim or compensation= the Christian paradox ! We have yet to grasp how different we are called to be . It is when we serve the neediest, the beloved of God, that we come closest to what Christian leadership means. “The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45)