On a recent Sunday at our church, Pastor Cherie chose two readings from the Bible, (The Message translation) one from James the other from Mark. It was a very fruitful service and I came away contemplating how these two passages related to each other.
Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. - James 4:1-3
Yes, deep inside ourselves we find it’s my way or the highway. Isn’t that the way it goes with us? It is “obvious” my way is best and everyone else should follow it. To learn to question yourself on this is a great quality; to learn to live and let live a greater quality still; to learn to serve others is the best.
33 They came to Capernaum. When he (Jesus) was safe at home, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the road?”34 The silence was deafening—they had been arguing with one another over who among them was greatest.35 He sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.” -Mark 9:33-35
Take last place in order to be first. What can this mean? In terms of ordinary living this makes no sense. Were we not taught in school the virtues of competition? Is competition not the bedrock of a free market society? This young Rabbi Jesus is a real radical. But he is talking about one’s own happiness, the kingdom of heaven. And what is this about being a servant? What can that mean? A servant places their own interests second to the person they are serving. What benefit is there to putting your own interests last? It is quite simply freedom from the tyranny of our own egos. Egos consistently create disharmony in our minds. They are always questing for something more, or better. They are never satisfied. And they are always comparing you to others so that you come out looking worse off. When you truly focus your attention on someone else’s interests, bingo, the ego is stilled and you are left in peace. So being a servant of all has nothing to do with gaining brownie points to be holier than someone else. Oh no, that sort of thinking is a recipe for misery. It’s just another way of putting yourself first while pretending to be last. When you truly focus all your attention on what another needs you benefit beyond your wildest dreams. Generally wildest dreams do not include peace of mind, but once you have it you realize you wanted nothing else. Everything else the ego was driving you toward was just a poor substitute for peace of mind. Herein lies the blessing of becoming the servant of all.
Lastly, what about these appalling wars and quarrels? Well if everyone were putting each other’s interests first quarrels and wars would rapidly evaporate. We cannot do this for anyone else but we can do it for ourselves. So why not say “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me”.