All too often do people long for power and leadership, not to lead, but to rule. We use our position of authority and abuse it. It can be something as small as an older sibling who manipulates younger siblings into doing tasks and chores that were supposed to be their responsibility, not the younger ones'. It can be in the workplace where someone in a higher position assigns tedious, menial tasks to others just for the sake of delegating, overworking those below them while not lending a hand to clean up the mulch. It can be in the political scale, where leaders become dictators. No matter what level in life, no matter how small or large of a scale, we as humans have the tendency to want to feel more important than others. This has been a situation that has plagued human kind, an animal-like tendency to want to dominate others; an alpha-mentality in which we want to exert authority over others.
We see the subservient servants throughout the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. The word itself was used in context of slavery, such as the Hebrews' plight in Egypt (Exodus 1:14, 2:23), or attending to rulers. It was Jesus who transformed the word when he said "whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45). What is more, He did not just ask this of us, but showed us.
In John 13:1-20, He willingly took a lowly position and washed His disciples' feet and told them, "If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." (Jn 13:14-15). He, the master and teacher knelt down and cared for those who followed Him. But what greater example of this than His dying on the cross? To be crucified, punished, humiliated like a criminal. And for what? He bore the Cross of all of our own burdens; what more the burdens we have placed upon ourselves. In his Passion and death, we see the sacrifice it takes in order to lead others from the heart the one who did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The journey is a painful and selfless act.
Jesus, Himself, was the Sacramental image of God's grace and mercy. The God of the Old Testament is thought to be full of wrath. But even in the Psalm, we realize and see the longing for His mercy and kindness. What better way to see that than in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout His ministry, He showed God's kindness and mercy.
But God's kindness and mercy should not just end with Jesus. The truth of God's kindness and mercy started with Jesus. We as Christians are called to be like Christ, to follow in His Way. It is up to us to show God's kindness and mercy to others. The greater our positions, the greater our duty. We must learn to serve those considered to be below us. And rather than speaking down to them from above, like Jesus knelt down to wash the disciples feet, we must come humbly bend down and raise them above us, caring for others in a loving manner. In doing so, we may just yet cleanse the world of the hatred one person at a time.
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate