This is the seventh post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.
Leadership Starts With Humility
Humility, Trump, and the All Blacks
What is one trait that Donald Trump seems to have little of? Humility. This Presidential race in America has seen a marked departure from what we have been used to. In times past, we have been accustomed to hearing mainly about the policies and plans of a prospective candidate, and specific things about themselves that make them a good fit for the job. Trump however bucks the trend, taking the idea of humility and trampling all over it by telling us that he is smart, tough, intelligent while saying almost nothing credible about what he plans to do. Perhaps this is one reason why we find him so repulsive. Our Western mindset has been so affected by Christianity, that we assume great leaders ought to be humble. We are not attracted to self-centered proud and boastful people, rather we want someone who we believe will serve us, and will look out for our good and not their own glory something Trump does not seem to understand.
In the New Zealand context, humility is something that we expect of our leaders and role models; there is nothing we dislike more than to see a person talk about themselves. Take the All Blacks; they are a rugby team known internationally for having a culture of humility. One of the examples of this is something known to them as “Sweep the Shed” . At the end of every game, the top players pick up a broom and together sweep the changing room. What a lesson in humility. During the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks invited the Namibian team they had just defeated into the changing sheds, drinking beer and having casual conversation with the Namibian players queuing up to take photos with Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. After the final, All Black coach Steve Hansen spent some time congratulating and encouraging the just-defeated opposition .
Humility in Antiquity
The world that Christ entered was a world where power meant glory. If you had the power, then you also took the glory. In fact, if you did not dominate your opponents and display your prowess in every way conceivable, you were seen as weak. The strong did not practice grace but brutality. Pax Romana, the peace in the Roman Empire, was only achieved by crushing anyone and everyone who dared to disagree. The prevailing view at that time regarding leadership, equated leadership with Philosophy (the Greeks), Military might, Political power, and Wealth. Think of Plato and Aristotle who had such tremendous power in dictating the thoughts and ideas of the culture. Think of Alexander the great who had such military might that he conquered more land than anyone before. Think of Rome, an empire so vast and mighty in both statutory law and military might that it crushed all who dared to stand before. Or what about King Solomon, a man who through his wealth and power was able to satisfy every desire that he saw fit. In the ancient world, the Will to Power was all that existed, might made right, and so the mighty ruled with rods of iron. The ancient gods of Greece and Rome reflected this perspective, demanding sacrifice and honor and if left unsatisfied, liable to wreak havoc and destruction upon mortal men. The gods did not care how you lived, Justice and Virtue were alien concepts to them, instead they craved power and glory, accruing as much of each as they had opportunity.
Humility, Yahweh, and Jesus
The Jews however had a different idea. They believed that Yahweh did not only care for honor, but also justice and virtue. Jehovah, they argued, is a God who is essentially good, and as such is consistent in his dealings with humanity, demanding that men live according to a moral law. Those who followed Him were expected to obey Him and strive for righteousness and holiness. God loved the poor and weak, those who had been humbled by men were especially precious in His sight. Further, when Jesus stepped onto the scene, he upped the stakes even further arguing that everyone is to love their enemies and to seek to humble themselves for the sake of others. He based this on the idea that every person is made in the image of God, and as such deserves respect no matter the circumstance. The Christian world view argues that differences between individuals is not anything that belongs to the individual, but rather is what they have been given by God. People are not self-made, and as such, must be grateful to God and respectful of others. Whoever wishes to be first, must first be a slave.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians held Christ up as an example of humility, saying:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11 ESV)
When Paul says, “Who being in the form God” what he says could be more accurately translated “Who precisely because he was in the form of God”. This means that When Christ came to earth, He did not come in disguise like the Greek gods would when visiting earth, rather he revealed that God is a servant. Reading on in the passage, we read that Christ humbled himself to death on the cross and that it is through this ultimate humiliation that God exalted Christ above all things.
Culture today tells us that “you can have it all” because culture is centered around the individual, yet when voters see politicians living this out, they are repulsed because they know that leadership is about service. Great leaders who only talk about themselves are repulsive; we have little time and respect for such as these. Rather, humility is to hold and use whatever power you have for the good of others. The humble do not have a low view of themselves or their abilities, but rather acknowledge whatever power they posses and know that it is most beautifully expressed in service to others. A person with low self-esteem cannot be a humble person, for a humble person knows they have power, and in spite of it, chooses to use that power to serve others. Jesus is a game changer for us today because he reveals that God is a God who chooses to humble himself for our benefit. A God who is willing to go through so much for us is one who cares and who can be trusted.
So…What about you?
So what about you? Are you humble? Do you have power and authority? Do you leverage your status and capacities for others? Let the example of Christ inspire you and lead you to serve other people. Do not just expect humility but live it, and please… do not be a Donald Trump.