You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:38-45, NIV)
James and John had one thing on their mind when they asked Jesus if they could sit on his left and right side: influence.
They thought Jesus was about to take power, and they wanted to be in the thick of it. They wanted to rule by his side. But what the disciples didn't realize was that when Jesus spoke of "drinking the cup," He wasn't referring to The Last Supper. He was referring to paying the ransom for the world's sin. The pinnacle moment of Jesus's life of influence: The Cross.
Everyone has influence in some way or another. Sometimes it's natural, sometimes it's a given platform. And for Christ-followers, it ought to be exercised in a way that reflects Jesus.
In the passage quoted above, Jesus goes on to tell his disciples (and us today) that people want to influence society to get their own way. It's true. More times than not, people are working an angle. It's the nature of sin in us all. Power, wealth, popularity, favour, approval. The list could go on for days.
But Jesus says to serve... and not for personal gain, but because He, God in human form, came to serve. He sacrificed and laid down His life for the sake of the world.
True influence is gained through selfless service.
When Jesus said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you." Jesus is talking about how most people try to influence society, to get their way. They lord it over others. They seek power and control.
If I have the power, if I have the wealth, the connections, then I can get my way. But Jesus says, "Not so with you. For you, the route to gaining influence is not taking power. Influence gained through power and control doesn't really change society; it doesn't change hearts. I'm calling you to a totally different approach. Be so sacrificially loving that the people around you , who don't believe what you believe, will soon be unable to imagine the place without you. They'll trust you because they'll see that you're not only out for yourself, but out for them too. (Timothy Keller, King's Cross)
Jesus is our truest example of influence, that which is gained through service, not control.
Control is almost always linked to fear. A controlling person is driven by fear, not strength. God does not fear, therefore God is not controlling. He says, "Serve. Be prepared to be let down, but be prepared for Me to work through you in a restorative way that you've never imagined."
We live in a dog-eat-dog world. People don't want to see others go where they're unable to go. Even Christians. I know, the rumour is true. Christians are, indeed, sinful men in need of saving. At the root of it, we're all human. Will it ever change? Probably not. But we, as carriers and reflectors of Christ, have a responsibility to do things differently. Remember Jesus said, "Not so with you."
Think about your life. Sometimes we desperately need to stop, reflect and redirect.
- What are your avenues of influence? Ask God how you can reflect His glory in those places and not pursue your own.
- How can you serve those below you, not just above you? Ask God how you can serve them with a pure heart.
Make things more about Him, more about others, and less about yourself. Influence. Servant. Slave. Do you really want it?
Feel free to share with me about your journey. I'd love to hear how God is rocking your world... perhaps even completely turning it upside down.