The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: The Servant Church
The Gospel narratives are very emphatic that discipleship, the following of Jesus, implies partaking in his passion and resurrection. That holds for all followers, not just for Church leadership. On his way to his death Jesus also made clear to his Twelve apostles that their role in God’s kingdom was not as political leadership, with status, but as servants of the crucified Christ, devoted to service of the weak and vulnerable, among others. It is worth recalling what following of the crucified Christ means. It is possibly put clearest by Jesus himself after the first prediction of his passion (Mark 8:34-38): It means to die to oneself and to profess faith in Jesus openly. “If any one would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,* will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words* in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
The Church a servant with divine confidence. While they journey with Christ to his passion and Calvary, believers are aware that these in turn led to the resurrection, when God exalted him and gave him the glorious name Lord, to whom every knee in heaven and on earth will bow. The Church must continue to proclaim this victory of Christ.
Church service and defence of the Gospel. Jesus has made quite clear that future Church administration, represented in his day by the Twelve (Apostles) addressed by him, should be humble, not seeking honour, but acting as servants. The same twelve, and their successors, were also sent to proclaim the Gospel, and, when required, to defend its integrity and the true interpretation of it. This is clearest in the case of Paul, who told the Galatians that if an angel of heaven were to preach a different Gospel he was not to be accepted.
Christ’s patient suffering to serve as an example for Christians. We have an early example of this in 1 Peter 2:21-24: “To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps”.
The apostle Paul is eloquent on the presence of the sufferings, of the death and the resurrection of Christ in his own personal life and in that of believers. He himself shared abundantly in Christ’s sufferings and through Christ abundantly in comfort also (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). This helped him understand the sufferings of others. A similar principle of the working of grace is evident in Ireland where memory of their own terrible Famine sufferings has led not to a spirit of revenge but of help to other countries in need.