Becoming Great by Becoming Small

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

Goblet of Fire by rumolayWho said that? If you’re a Harry Potter fan like many of my children, you probably recognize this quote from a conversation between Sirius Black and Hermione Granger in The Goblet of Fire. Sirius was not the first to originate this idea, as many before him said similar things. Nelson Mandela in his autobiographical work, Long Walk to Freedom, wrote, “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

A quick google search attributes this idea to many individuals throughout the 18-20th centuries, but eventually one might reasonably argue that Jesus could be the originator. In Luke 9:46-48 we read, “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

psk-footwash-small by peterskimThroughout Jesus’ greatest moments in ministry, when he was given the stage to shine and to seek greatness, he instead chose to serve. At the Last Supper, as he dined with his disciples one last time before his crucifixion, he literally placed a serving towel over his arm and washed the dirty, stinky, nasty feet of his disciples – including Judas – the one who would betray him. Jesus willingly took on a task normally assigned to hired help, and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords challenged his followers that one leads by serving. One becomes great when one becomes small.

Servanthood. Humility. Service to the least of these. This is our example of leadership and greatness. This is the model we should follow. This is how we should daily strive. This is the standard of the Christian life.

Living the Christian life – following Christ – is not about how great we can become. It isn’t about what we can accomplish. It isn’t about how many people take notice of us. It isn’t about accumulating wealth or respect. It isn’t about pridefully proclaiming greatness or establishing oneself as the answer to all problems. Becoming Christlike is not about us – it’s about God and others. It is about how we are called to serve and love the least of these. Not from a distance – but from close-up.

How does your life reflect God’s character and the example of Christ? How are you serving and loving the lost and the least? In your desire to become great, are you increasingly promoting yourself – or the cause of Christ?

It’s a rare person in today’s society who seeks to make themselves least. Who strives to serve. Who values those society has discarded. And yet, it is precisely those individuals who truly seek and follow after Christ. Want to become great? Become the least. Want to follow Christ? Love the lost. For indeed Jesus and Sirius were right, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”