Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Follow the Leader, lead the follower

What is a follower and what is a leader? Jesus blurred the distinction in many ways. Was He a forceful leader, or a meek follower? Or, perhaps, was he a meek leader, not a forceful follower?

As I think about these questions, I realize now that at times I've been a forceful follower. All of us who are disciples of the Son of God are called to be followers of Him. The sheep know His voice and follow their Shepherd. Who am I, a fellow sheep, to impose my opinions and deductions on other sheep?

The best form of leadership for us, the sheep of His pasture, is leadership by followership, or leadership by discipleship, to put it another way. That may seem paradoxical, and it is, of course. But Jesus loved using paradoxes like this in his teaching. After all, Jesus was both the sheep that was led to the slaughter and the Shepherd:

    Acts 8:32 - The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (NIV)

    John 10:11 - “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (NIV)

    John 10:14 - “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (NIV)

Humility has always been the trademark of discipleship:
    Psalm 25:9 - He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. (NIV)
What is fascinating about this is that our Leader, despite being God, humbled himself in order to exercise his own leadership:
    Matthew 11:29 - Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (NIV)

    Philippians 2:1-9 - If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (NIV)

According to Paul, our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. If Jesus led sacrificially as a follower of His Father in heaven, our leadership as sheep of His pasture should be no less humble and sacrificial.

In fact, it shouldn't be surprising that this type of self-sacrificing leadership is how husbands are to lead their homes:

    Ephesians 5:25-29 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church... (NIV)
When we lead by example, without the selfish ambition or other works of the flesh we see listed in Galatians 5, we become most effective at leading other followers--not to follow ourselves, but to step into line by our side as we follow the Shepherd. This is the Christ-like model for how followers, or disciples, are to lead other sheep. It also happens to be the model that bears the most promise for uniting Christians in their followership of the one and only Good Shepherd.

Subscribe to site updates here.