Anyone who has had the responsibility of overseeing and leading a group of people (even born again, Christian people) has had to deal with rivalry – petty, jealous, competitiveness that sometimes surfaces within the group. Someone does something that is perceived as an attempt to impress, get “an inside track” on the others, or gain an unfair advantage, and jealousy, animosity, and anger rears its ugly head! Unity is threatened, the mission is clouded, vision evaporates, and shared values are compromised. A sense of “team” disappears and suddenly it’s “every person for themselves!”
Well it happened among Jesus’ team of 12 – and Jesus provides “spiritual leaders” today an excellent case study in how to deal with this challenging situation (it’s found in Matthew 20:20-28)…
The problem – destructive rivalry – reared its ugly head…
“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ … And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers!”
Jesus did not delay, He dealt with situation immediately by emphasizing “Kingdom values” (He emphasized that in Kingdom efforts we serve together as “servants” – we do not seek to gain advantage over one another with power and position, as the broader culture often does)…
“But Jesus called them [the 12] to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU [a very powerful phrase in the Greek]! But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave!
And then He provided the potent power of His personal example – He modeled the behavior and values that He emphasized!
“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many!”
It seems to me Jesus provided a wonderful pattern for any spiritual leader in dealing with this issue… When the problem surfaces > the values are emphasized and taught > then the leader personally provides a model of the behaviors expected in a team effort.
My response? Lord, when destructive competitive rivalry rears its ugly head in any effort I am responsible to lead, help me to follow your example!