Just about anybody will admit that Jesus was a great leader. Even folks who deny His deity will admit his impact. Today I am launching a short series of posts related to some very timely lessons for leaders – all taken from Jesus’ early ministry.
The text that I have been studying is Mark 2:18 through Mark 3:14. So here goes the first one:
Life must come before structure and structure must yield to and serve life and mission.
Jesus had only just begun His public ministry when He began to face serious criticism from the socio-religious powers in His culture. From being criticized because His disciples were not regularly doing ritual fasts to criticism for His ministry activity on Sabbath Days, it became obvious that Jesus was not a slave to the traditions of man or unbiblical burdens that were being placed on folks.
Some of our Lord’s most famous sayings come from His reaction to empty rituals and lifeless traditions: “You do not put new wine into old wineskins.” (3:22) “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (3:27)
Years ago I came across the saying,
“Life begs for structure but structure never begs for life.”
I have often returned to this profound principle. For example, if God had not created life in the first six days, there would have been no need for a seventh day for rest. If there was no human couple in the Garden, there would be no need for a Sabbath Day. The Sabbath Day, a period of time set apart and structured for a specific purpose, was intended to serve and refresh people. It wasn’t a ritual and burden to place on people!
A very practical example involves rainfall. The many creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans in our world exist because WATER CAME FIRST. Pay attention to what happens after a big rainstorm occurs. Water begins looking for and running toward “structure”. The structure helps the water become useful and not wasted (or worse, destructive.) The structure plays a very important, even essential, role. But only when water is present.
Growing up in hot and dry West Texas, I know what dry river beds look like. Most of the year these structures just sit there and do nothing. It seems they are more than happy to exist without water. They are not seeking anything. They are content to hold to a form without life being present within.
I think you get the picture. And it is an important one.
Jesus refused to prioritize structure over life and mission. If he had to offend someone’s idea of Sabbath rules to reach someone’s heart (or someone’s crippled body) He would do it. And when it came to His disciples, He picked people who were teachable and flexible, and not bound by lots of extra-biblical rules and traditions.
Our takeaway from this principle? Go for life! Focus on the life-giving truth and power of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit. And as fruit is expressed and folks begin to respond, then look for biblical ways for adding structure that is in keeping with the new life that is being expressed. Structure is essential to the preservation and multiplication of life that is being expressed. But structure must not become a hindrance to the legitimate activity of the Son of God in our midst.
In the next post we will look at: Jesus knew when to face His enemies and when to avoid them.