Last month we considered that leadership is an act of service. This service is effected through a “balance of mercy, grace, and justice.” We noted that Jesus modeled self-emptying. He lived in a self-giving, self-denying fashion. That self-giving, self-denying life led all the way to the cross. Jesus also modeled the cruciform life—death and resurrection.
It is easy to make His crucifixion an event in history alone. The Scriptures, however, speak of crucifixion as more than a punishment by Rome. The crucifixion is the only way of life that makes sense of death. Death is about impossibility. Jesus entered into the impossible. The cross meets impossibility head on and emerges on the other side in the resurrection—real life!
There is no resurrection without dying—only the resuscitation of the old and worn out way of life. Without resurrection we are on a form of life-support that allows us to breathe but not truly live. Jesus’ entire life was aimed toward the cross, toward death. He leads us to death as well—death to the life of self-sufficiency, death to the life of self-aggrandizement, death to the life of me, my, and mine.
Spiritual leadership is a ‘dying breed.’ One can understand why it is so difficult. Our society, Christians included, props itself up on the products of consumerism. We are all prone to anesthetize pain and discomfort. The perceived ‘gaps’ in our lives are often filled with pleasure and products. It is a society of addiction that far surpasses the mere use of drugs and alcohol to mask emptiness, boredom, or pain. However, spiritual leaders, like Jesus, call those who would follow Him to “come and die.” Die to self: one painful nail at a time placed skillfully in those areas of our lives where death needs to replace life-support and give way to resurrection power.
This resurrection power comes when the element of human possibility is removed. “Powerlessness’ is itself a necessary ingredient in the chemistry of divine grace.” (Anderson, Soul of Ministry, pg 45). What leader wants to lead from that place? What leader really believes that powerlessness is the place from which to lead?
Paul, leading and living like His Master, writes: “…I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV
Paul believed that being crucified with Christ, living from the platform of ‘powerlessness,’ would yield the fruit of righteousness, joy and peace in the Lord. And the writer to the Hebrews framed crucifixion this way:
“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of Him, so He endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought Him. Then He received the highest position in heaven, the One next to the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, GW)
Self-denial, crucifixion, death, and resurrection…how do these cruciform concepts inform your leadership?