Friday, March 25, 2011

Luke 22: What would a Christian public servant look like?

Luke records in 22:25-28:

"A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

The NIV Study Bible comments on this passage, "Jesus urges and exemplifies servant leadership - a trait that was as uncommon then as it is now." No fooling. The "Benefactors" of the first century would feel right at home with the self-seeking politicians who deliver pork to their eager constituents, often posing for the news cameras with a giant check in their hands as if THEY were the donors and not merely the well-compensated middlemen. These "public servants" build gigantic armies of constituents who, beholden to their control over the government purse strings, give generously of time and treasure. The Lord of the Manor amasses campaign war chests and voting block castles to securely hide behind if the peasants (politically unconnected folks like you and me) become unruly. Vermont in particular has at least one such Duke, and among his vassals are several barons, counts, and viscounts of lesser magnitude but equal ambition.

I might shrug but for two reasons:

1) the Pork as Means To Re-Election is one (but not the only) reason our country is racing over the cliff of Debt and barring some daring rescue will break to pieces on the Rocks of Humiliating, Compromising International Servitude. It happened to Israel and Rome, it will happen to us unless something changes.

2) The clever gaming of our electoral system by Benefactors betrays the ideals of our national covenant, which I believe can be boiled down to "government of, for and by the people (Constitution Preamble) promoting individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Declaration of Independence)." I believe America is the greatest experiment in ethical, "Golden Rule" based nation-building the world has ever seen.

But there's the catch, I guess......its people and especially its leaders must agree that on some level the Golden Rule applies. I don't mean "the one with the gold rules," I mean that leader and citizen alike must recognize that government doesn't exist for our enrichment at the expense of others, and that at times the opposite priority must hold. With apologies to John Lennon, "Imagine" if there was a candidate for American public office who took seriously the teaching and example of Jesus and really lived out, "I am among you as one who serves."

Instead of promising his votes to the well-heeled and well-organized, he might knock on regular folks'  doors and introduce himself and his mission and ask, "how can I serve you?" He would write down their answers. And if elected, he would try to serve them.

She would put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few Personages Essential To Re-Election. She would however put the needs of the few ahead of the many if the few's protections under the Bill of Rights were being threatened. The Constitution, not "I Must Be Re-Elected", would be her covenant.

He would fight for his district's piece of the pie ONLY after ensuring that the pie itself wasn't made of unsustainable debt and onerous taxes. Faced with the choice between protecting America's future or his own political future, he would be a man and protect his beloved Lady Liberty.

His staffers would be heavy on politics-free constituent service and very light on courting the media and re-election needs of the candidate. They too would understand that re-election is up to the voters, and disinterested service is their only calling.

And whatever else the voters thought of her, they would know that she took seriously her Christian calling to be "among them as one who serves."

Unrealistic and not the way of the world? I say again, no fooling. But it is the way of the Kingdom, and we are called to be salt and light. The first nine or 10 would-be servants might get thrown to the lions, but sooner or later their example might change the world, or at least save the country that is Freedom's Sentinel. And I close with more John Lennon: "You may say that I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one."

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