45 BC—”Dictator for Life.”

45 BC—”Dictator for Life.”

It is easy to imagine Julius Caesar straightening at the shoulders as he was proclaimed “Dictator perpetuo” (Latin for “Dictator for Life”). The year was 45BC, Caesar had won a civil war against his in-house enemies and had set up the new ‘Roman Empire’ to replace the ‘Republic of Rome.’ This, arguably the most famous Roman leader who ever lived, was about to learn why it doesn’t pay to bestow titles upon yourself—a year later he was dead! Stabbed by a group of rebellious senators led by Brutus and Cassius. (Who said bureaucrats don’t have the final say?)

Four decades later a tiny baby was born in an insignificant country in that mighty Roman Empire. He would grow up to teach leadership principles that Julius, if he knew what was to befall him, would have wished he could have lived and taught his followers. Instead, Julius brutally oppressed his dissenters to the point where those closest to him risked their lives to personally kill him. Jesus does not specialize in leadership seminars. He teaches: ‘Humility, Service and Dependence—from the back of the line.’ Humility is the defining stance of the Christian: Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Mt.23:12). Service is his dedicated work. The aspiring church leader would do well to tattoo Jesus’ sobering words inside his eyelids (metaphorically speaking): “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mk.9:35). Dependence on God for everything is a given for him. Daily food, wisdom, guidance and help are sought with a child-like expectation and acceptance: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (Mk.10:15). Finally, everything done to lead in the name of Jesus is done happily ‘from the back of the line’—“for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (Lk.9:48).


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