Mark 10:42-43 (NKJV) 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.
I am finally back after a very productive six weeks in Kenya and Tanzania. In my last post I gave some details as to what we were doing there and the success we enjoyed. Now it is time to get back to business here. I want to share some things with you that we ministered to the pastors and leaders in Kenya.
Let me say that I believe these things apply to all of us. We all lead someone. We may lead our coworkers, fellow students or neighbors. We may lead our families or friends. We may not hold any position in the church, but as the people of God, we are responsible for leading people to Jesus. Someone is watching you and that makes you a leader.
One of the important things to remember about leadership of any kind is that leaders set the tone. What kind of leader you are will determine how the people who follow you will live and react to life. The people following you will go no higher than you go. They will be the kind of followers that you are a leader. That is why it is so important that we understand what Jesus has to say about leading.
Our scripture is taken from Mark chapter 10. This is a familiar story, but I think we often see it as a cliché. I was particularly struck by one phrase as I was teaching in Malaba, Kenya. Jesus said to his disciples, “It shall not be so with you.
Although this is in reference to a question about who will be great in the Kingdom of God, I believe it goes beyond that. I believe we must understand that nothing in the Kingdom of God can work the same way it does in the world.
One of the main issues in the African church is the mixture of culture with Christianity. Culture in itself is not wrong. All cultures have wonderful aspects to them that we should cherish. I am an American. We have a particular culture that has evolved over the last 300 years. Many things about my culture are good. They fit with Christianity with no problem whatsoever. However, some things about current American culture simply do not agree with the bible. Where those things are concerned, I must be willing to allow the Word of God to supersede my culture.
In Kenya, there are cultural practices and attitudes that are much older than American culture. Many of these attitudes and practices are still part of African life to this day. The tribal roots that are part of our distant past are, in some cases, less than 50 years in their past. Many people still live in the manner in which they have lived for thousands of years. There is often a great deal of pressure to honor the “old ways.”
In some areas, this is perfectly acceptable. Just as the things in American culture that do not fit with the Word of God must be abandoned, the same is true of African culture. Because the African cultural ways are so recent and because there is so much pressure on people to honor the ancestors, it can produce a problem in the Christianity they practice.
No matter where we live, we must understand that we are not Christians second and whatever our nationality is first. I am not an American Christian. My brothers and sisters in Kenya are not African Christians. I am a Christian who happens to live in America. They are Christians who happen to live in Kenya. Either way, we are Christians first.
As I was talking to these precious people about these things, I shared with them that their “old ways” are just not old enough. Our culture does not go back to where we were born. It does not even go back to our grandparents or great grandparents. It goes back much farther than that. Our cultural roots go back to the Garden of Eden and the book of Genesis. That is the standard by which our culture must be measured.
When Jesus said, “It shall not be so with you.” what was he talking about? I believe he was talking about doing things the worlds way and doing things the bible way. Choosing culture over the Word of God is to choose the way of the world. As we look at the rest of this chapter, we can understand Jesus’ real meaning.
In the first 12 verses, Jesus discusses marriage. The Pharisees try to justify divorce by quoting the Law of Moses. Jesus tells them that this was only added because of the hardness of their hearts. Although I believe there are very narrow grounds for divorce in the bible, it was never God’s will that divorce be an acceptable option. In the beginning, God joined the man and woman and Jesus indicates it is not our right to separate the two. Divorce is the world’s way, but Jesus says, “It shall not be so with you.”
Next, some children came to Jesus. The disciples rebuked them. After all, children should not bother a Prophet of God! However, Jesus rebukes them. The world’s way is that only important people should come to a dignitary like Jesus. Jesus says, “Let the children come to me for the kingdom of heaven is made of ones like them.” The world handles measure importance according to its standard but “It shall not be so with you.”
A rich ruler comes to Jesus. In the world, he is a ruler. That means he has power and authority. He is wealthy so that adds to the equation. Jesus looks at him and says, “All you need to do is give away all your money and the power that goes with it. Do that and come follow me.” This makes no sense to the mind who thinks according to the ways of the world but “It shall not be so with you.”
Then he makes a statement that his disciples cannot believe. He says it is hard for rich people to be saved. To their minds, wealth is a sign of the blessing of the covenant. If a man is rich, it must mean he is righteousness. Although God does say that the covenant provides blessing to meet our needs and beyond, this idea had become corrupted. Wealth in itself does not mean righteousness. In effect, Jesus is saying it means just the opposite. In the world, wealth may guarantee a type of salvation but “It shall not be so with you.”
He tells them that the way to guarantee their future salvation is to give up everything for the gospel. To the world, it would seem that following Jesus’ admonition would leave them penniless and helpless. This is so in the world but “It shall not be so with you.”
He tells his disciples that his path to fulfill the will of God is going to take him to the cross. How can death produce anything? Jesus makes it clear that without death he cannot reach his destiny. In the world, it makes no sense to walk into the place where people want to kill you and give yourself to them. In the world it makes no sense but “It shall not be so with you.”
In every area of life Jesus points out there is one path that is acceptable to the world and another that will produce results in the Kingdom of God. There is never a time when doing things against the principles in the Bible can produce Godly results. Never!
Today, ask yourself, “What am I doing that is not in agreement with the Word of God?” It may seem that there is no other way to get by. It may seem that the only path to prosperity or success is to compromise with the world. Do not do it. When we do things God’s way, we have access to God’s power and we get God’s results. When we compromise, we may have temporary success but the cost will eventually manifest and it will always be greater than we want to pay.