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Archive for April, 2013

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When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March 2013, I was struck by the fact that this humble Jesuit priest, who lived a simple life and was dedicated to serving the poor, had suddenly been elected to one of the most powerful positions in the world—head of the Roman Catholic Church and the spiritual leader of an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide.

Bergoglio never sought positions of power, prestige, or greatness, for he was committed as a Jesuit to poverty, chastity, evangelism, and to following the teachings of Jesus Christ. And yet he was entrusted with higher positions and responsibilities throughout his ministry, rising from lowly priest to bishop, archbishop, cardinal, and then pope.

If we consider the most powerful leaders in the world today, we soon realize that very few of them reached where they are today by being humble, living simply, or by being dedicated to the poor.

Most got where they are by aggressively pursuing personal success—the type measured by society’s standards of wealth, fame, power, and prestige. Many were selfish, arrogant, and clawed their way to the top at the expense of others.

But Jesus turns these values of the world upside down, and warns all of us who would follow him:

“The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12, New Living Translation, NLT)

When the disciples erroneously thought that Jesus was about to establish a political kingdom on earth, they argued among themselves about who was the greatest and who would get the most prominent positions of leadership and authority in his new kingdom (Mark 9:33-34).

And even the mother of James and John, Jesus’ cousins, petitioned Jesus to assign her sons to places of honor beside him (Matthew 20:20-21).

Jesus told her that such positions were not his to give, but his Father’s. And to his disciples Jesus gave a new perspective of greatness—servant leadership:

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:25-28, NLT)

Like the disciples, we all yearn to live meaningful and significant lives, perhaps even lives of greatness. But true greatness, Jesus teaches, comes only by joyfully and humbly serving God and lovingly doing things for others.

Each of us can be truly great in our present station of life—in our homes, jobs, careers, schools, colleges, or other areas—if we follow Jesus’ example of humility, selflessness, and service.

Society might try to convince us that self-aggrandizement is the way to achieve power, wealth, fame, and greatness, but such achievements will ultimately prove temporary, empty, and without eternal value, for, as Jesus asks:

“How do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?” (Mark 8:36, NLT)

Jesus promises that if we become servants in his name, we will receive both earthly rewards and eternal life (Matthew 19:29), and he adds:

“But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” (Matthew 19:30, NLT)

So, each of us must ask, “Who am I now? And who will I be then?”

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