The Naked and Broken Leader 5.2

Leading By Being Led 5.2

          Jesus reminded Peter that before following Jesus he had been able to dress however he wanted and had been able to go wherever he desired.  But now that Peter was bending his will to the Lord, Peter would in the future, Jesus says, stretch out his hands and have others direct him where he didn’t want to go. {1}   Following Jesus meant death for Peter.  So the question of the depth of Peter’s devotion to Christ was an earnest and honest one.   Peter was to embrace the full consequence of Jesus’ command to follow.  “If any of you wants to be my follower,” Jesus instructed, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.” {2}
          True leadership, courageous leadership, “is the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go” says Henri Nouwen.  The hard truth, Nouwen wrote, is “that the servant-leader is the leader who is being led to unknown, undesirable, and painful places.  The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.” {3}
          Jesus was stripped down and broken for us.  He asks his followers to lead by his example.  But it’s a difficult invitation that countless Christians have struggled to answer.  I’ve offered the following humble reminder in a previous post, but it is very fitting at this point in this series:  Six hundred years ago, for instance, Thomas Kempis offered this observation of the Christian’s hesitation to being led by the nakedness and brokenness of Jesus:

Jesus hath now many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of his cross.
He hath many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation.
He findeth many companions at his table, but few of his abstinence.
All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him, or with him.
Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion.
Many reverence his miracles, few follow the ignominy of his cross.
Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen.
Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.
But if Jesus hide himself, and leave them but a little while, they fall either into complaining, or into too much dejection of mind.
But they who love Jesus for the sake of Jesus, and not for some special comfort of their own, bless him in all tribulation and anguish of heart, as well as in the state of highest comfort. {4}

{1} John 21:18
{2} Matthew 16:24
{3} Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 81-82
{4} Kempis, Thomas.  The Imitation of Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1984), 115.

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