Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” ~ Matthew 20:20-28
There are many ways we view leadership. For many, the idea that James and John, as well as their mother have here isn't too far off. There is a level of power and of stature to leadership.
There is also often a level of being willing to use violence to achieve one's end. To be willing to fight and kill one's enemies. This is often seen as justice. It is just to kill one's enemies if they are a threat.
In this view of leadership and justice, there are those on the top and those on the bottom. There are those who have privilege, whether it be by virtue of wealth, status, color of one's skin, or religion, and there are those who do not have privilege by virtue of lack of wealth, lack of status, the wrong skin color, or the wrong religion.
It is just to keep things status quo. Just that the people on top stay on the top and the people on the bottom stay on the bottom. It is in this kind of "just" system that slavery was allowed to flourish in this country.
In the power structure that Jesus calls us to - in the leadership Jesus calls us to, the justice Jesus calls us to - this is all flipped. Leaders become servants. In politics they no longer serve simply those on top or those who already have power, instead they become actual civil servants. Remember when that word was used more often?
This is the system of Christian leadership. Leaders serve their congregations. Congregations serve their communities.
Those who are served first - who get justice first - are those on the bottom, or those who are opposite or marginalized. For those of us who are wealthy, that means serving and providing justice for the poor. For those of us who are white it means serving and providing justice for black and brown communities.
For those of us who are Christian, it means serving those who are not.
Who are you personally being called to serve?
Holy God, move me toward justice, mercy, and humility in all my dealings with your people. Amen