Many individuals, of all sorts, have been called great. There are conquerors like Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. There are sports figures like Mohammed Ali, Michael Jordan and Steffi Graf. Maybe you think of Warren Buffet, Elon Musk or Sheryl Sand- berg (CEO of Facebook), or civil leaders like Martin King or Abraham Lincoln
We recognize them because of what they accomplished. They had a physical or mental ad- vantage, pursued a goal with initiative and tenacity, and committed themselves to achieving their goal. They overcame hurdles much too daunting for most other people to even attempt. For these reasons they are exceptional. We appreciate them because of something they did and it’s easy to become enamored by this greatness. (Funny, isn’t it that we are so strongly attracted to this greatness?)
When you stop to think about it, these people had the wherewithal, the means, the force to make something happen. Sometimes for good, sometimes not, they dominated in some way. This is the way the world works.
But who are the greatest people in your life and why do you count them as being great?
Jesus’ disciples came to see that He was the Messiah. It took a while. They were expecting a leader who would gather a powerful force and drive out anyone who sought to control Israel. So, when Jesus told them that the Son of Man, the redeemer they were looking for, would instead be handed over to their enemy and killed, it is easy to see their confusion. They expected to see an individual who would take control, mass overwhelming power, and defeat the Romans.
When Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all”, they were totally lost.
Back to the question at hand. Who are the greatest people in your life? Do you think of power brokers or are they not the ones who gave themselves sacrificially, time and again, to you and for you? Are they not the ones who influenced you and changed you by seeing to your welfare and loving you?
We often seek power to get our way. But, the strongest positive influence over people is not accomplished by forced dominance. This is the way of the world. James reminds us that jealousy and selfish ambition, which result from putting ourselves first, leads to dis- order and foul practices.
Godly influence is accomplished by committed, enduring love for others, putting ourselves at the service of others. This is what Jesus demonstrated to his disciples. This is the way of our Lord.
The Psalmist says, “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord sustains my life.” Who will you let influence you?
Deacon Greg Osgood