The Light of Life Magazine
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WHERE HAVE ALL THE SERVANTS GONE?


Kuruvilla Chandy

Hippies were thought to be guys with dirty, stringy, long hair, wearing faded and frayed or torn dirty blue jeans, sporting a long beard, or girls similarly dressed in dirty clothes, wearing flowers in their hair left open, carrying a guitar and a backpack. When they would get together, they would sit in a circle, singing plaintive songs and smoking chillums. Middle Class India, of which the Church in India was an integral part (I too), didn’t like hippies one bit. Staid Christians went so far as to regard all guys with long hair as hippies even if they didn’t sport any of the other signs. To call someone a “hippie” was a sort of ultimate insult—the person was being classified as one with bad hygiene and bad morals.

“Where have all the flowers gone?,” was a song popular among hippies. Even though I didn’t like hippies, I liked the song for its captivating, plaintive words and music. Most just thought of it as a song against the Vietnam War. But the song actually predates hippies and their anti-Vietnam War activity.

Though Pete Seeger, ‘folk music legend,’ wrote the song in 1955, it became popular only after the clean-cut Kingston Trio performed it in 1962. By the time I was in college it was a hit and had become iconic. It was sung on college campuses and around campfires.

The song is Seeger’s musical lament about the folly of war. He adapted it from a Ukrainian folk song that he came across in Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel And Quiet Flows the Don.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the flowers gone?
The girls have picked them, ev’ry one.
Oh, when will you ever learn?
Oh, when will you ever learn?

In the stanzas that followed, Seeger’s lament asks where the girls who picked the flowers, the husbands they took, the husbands who went to become soldiers, and the soldiers who went to their graves have all gone. The last stanza answers the question “Where have all the graveyards gone?” They’re gone or out of sight, covered with the flowers picked by the girls who married the boys who went to war and died.

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers, ev’ry one.
Oh, when will you ever learn?
Oh, when will you ever learn?

It is this song’s phraseology that I borrow, to ask, “Where have all the servants gone?” It is appropriate that I use this anti-war song because all the wars of the world must be blamed on its leaders who forgot all about being servants of the people and fulfilled their own ambitious agendas, and the natural outcome of anyone’s selfish ambition is a war on others.

Servants to People

The notion of being people’s servants is a Christian concept. No one before Lord Jesus had ever thought of leadership in that way. When rulers talked, they talked only of the birthright of kings—a birthright to exploit and abuse the people, the masses, and the poor clods of the earth themselves believed in the right of kings.

Sadly even those who serve Christ as those who represent Him and carry out His mission, fall down on this one matter of serving people.

Are you the leader or head of the ministry you are involved in? Right away, it must be said that there is something wrong in your way of thinking. Our Lord said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mk. 9:35). First give up the notion that you are the head. Get it into your head that you are the “servant of all.” Middle class families employ servants to do what are described as “menial jobs” (washing dirty utensils, crockery and cutlery, sweeping and swabbing floors, washing clothes, cleaning toilets, watering plants, etc).

Servanthood

The Lord Jesus must have had these sorts of images because He lived in this part of the world. But when we read the words of our Lord, our minds shy away from these images and to make it doubly sure that such images are driven from our minds, we have coined the word “servanthood.”

This word did not exist in the English vocabulary earlier. Christians made the word up. We sublimated its potency, nay, derailed the Lord’s teaching by coining this word and reducing His command about serving to no more than a concept. What a neat theological trick to drain the Lord’s original idea of all its unpleasant connotations!

In our domestic world, servants are at the bottom of the totem pole. But in the church-world those who read papers at conferences on servanthood or preach messages on the subject are not people at the bottom. They are in leadership. They are people who like to talk about servanthood because they never have to do the dirty jobs of servants.

Called to Arrogance

Often, those who head or lead a work, have an attitude that the entire machinery and workforce of their particular organisation exist for their sake, to aid and support them for the great task that engages them. This subconscious attitude (and maybe it’s not so subconscious) comes from thinking of oneself as the primary and supreme representative of the ministry. There is a tendency to think that others (subordinates and underlings) are less representative.

Historically, there have been some glaring examples of such a view.Remarkably, most Christians have found each of them obnoxious. The concept of papal infallibility is an example. The Pope is called the “Vicar of Christ” [earthly representative of God]. Consequently, when the Pope utters something, it is regarded as a word from the Lord and one that is not to be disputed.

During the Emergency, D.K. Barooah, the then Congress president, coined the slogan, “Indira is India, India is Indira.” Most thinking Indians were appalled by the extreme sycophancy. Mrs Gandhi was herself guilty of entertaining this thought as she justified the imposition of the Emergency, the suspension of human rights, and the muzzling of the press and all criticism. She argued that the Emergency had become necessary because the integrity and safety of the very nation was at stake. Why? How exactly was the nation threatened? All because a court, having examined the contentions of a rival that she had abused her office in order to be elected, had declared her election to Parliament null and void; this would of course have led to her having to resign from the position of Prime Minister. She was not ready to do that. She felt that she was indeed the first and foremost representative of the nation.

Last year a debate raged on whether or not the concept of “contempt of court” signifies that any questioning of the integrity of a judge is tantamount to contempt of court, which is still an open question. Some months back Lucknow’s citizens were outraged to read the news that because a judge had to wait for his turn, while a doctor was attending to a patient, the judge threatened to slap a contempt of court charge on the doctor.

Unequal

History has again and again witnessed the rise of the notion that laws that are binding on commoners do not apply to those who are not part of the masses.

It was King James I of England who first spoke of the “divine right of kings.” He said that: Kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God Himself are called gods...they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth: for if you will consider the attributes to God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a king. God hath power to create or destroy, make or unmake at His pleasure, to give life or send death, to judge all and to be judged nor accountable to none; to raise low things and to make high things low at His pleasure, and to God are both souls and body due. And the like power have kings: they make and unmake their subjects, they have power of raising and casting down, of life and of death, judges over all their subjects and in all causes and yet accountable to none but God only. . .

From this he concluded that just
- as to dispute what God may do is blasphemy...so is it sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power.
- as governance was his craft, he said that he could not be taught, that he was un-teachable in the matter.

All over India, in every State and at the Centre, there are lawless men getting elected to the legislature—not only those who are at large, but even those who are presently serving sentences in jails! Remarkably, while Indian law does not allow those awaiting trial to vote, there is no bar on people fighting elections from jail if not yet convicted! (This is surely an item for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Wonder if there is any other country where that would be allowed?)

When any one is above the law, it does not matter whether he claims it by virtue of his office or by lawless might. They belong together: they abuse others. They may talk of “serving” people (as hierarchs do in the church-world and politicians in the nation), but it is no secret that they expect others to serve them and their purposes, while they do all the talking on being servants.

Skip Moen who maintains the site At God’s Table http://www.atgodstable.com/ makes some pertinent comments on Paul’s instruction that the Christian minister ought to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim.4:2). He asks what comes to mind when we read the word “exhort.” Usually we think that the word suggests verbal tasks such as lecturing or urging people to do something that they have been neglecting. Moen, who has some fluency in Greek, draws attention to the fact that the Greek word is parakaleo.

Holy Spirit the Servant

This word is the root of Paraklete, one name for the Holy Spirit. The word parakaleo is made up of two words, para (along side) and kaleo (to call). This word parakaleo therefore has a whole range of meanings: aid, help, assistance, encouragement, comfort. The Holy Spirit is thus the Advocate, the Helper, the Comforter.

Moen writes,

For God, parakaleo is a very big deal. It is precisely what Jesus did when He responded to the call for redemption and restoration. If the leader of the flock is going to fill this criterion, it will usually be costly, but it will always be exactly what we need at precisely the right time and place. Parakaleo is divine, just-in-time delivery.

“The Christian leader of the flock is not the one with the uninterruptible schedule. She [he] is not the one who just doesn’t have time for you right now. She is the one who knows what it means to deliver the right word, the comforting touch and the encouraging, tangible assistance when it is needed. Exhortation is not always vocal remonstration or emotional pleas. Exhortation is aid in an emergency, consolation in sorrow, assistance when required and supplications when necessary.”

Moen implies that the one ministered to takes priority over one’s life’s work. They don’t exist to authenticate or highlight our ministry. We and our ministry exist to help them. It is the other way around. When Christian leaders follow the leading of the Servant Par Excellence, they will be like Him and do what He did. Moen also makes the point that if we are going to be like Jesus there is something else we must do. Those who are like Jesus don’t look for any credit.

In fact, if you want the best story of parakaleo in action, read the story of Jarius’ daughter. Jesus heals her after a major interruption, and then slips out the back door before anyone can start the media frenzy. A Christian leader knows that none of the credit for all these virtuous acts falls on him. It belongs to God alone.

You are a leader. But are you like Jesus? Are you the one who serves, the servant of all?




©2010 Light of Life