Becoming Great

Sketch for 'Jesus Washing Peter's Feet' c.1851 by Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893

Ford Madox Brown. Sketch for ‘Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet’. c.1851

My Dear American Christian Siblings,

This is what Mark’s Jesus said about becoming great: “But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, for the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.” -Mark 10:43-45, Common English Bible

If we Christian Americans want to become great, I am pretty sure it will not happen through the way the majority of us are currently headed. Our greatness as followers of Jesus will not come from the way of “strong leader” authoritarianism, the way of turning our backs on the immigrant and the refugee, the way of separating parents from their children, the way of not hearing those who have been harmed physically and emotionally, the way of white male domination of our economics and politics, the way of increasing inequality between the rich and the poor, the way of increasing injustices against people of color, the way of decreasing access to the healing made possible by affordable healthcare, the way of discriminating against those who orient themselves to religion differently than we do, the way of discriminating against our LGBTQIA siblings, or the way of increasing our exploitation and harm of the earth. This is not way to greatness; this is the way of hubris and hate, the way of injustice and oppression, the way that Jesus would often simply refer to as sin.

If we are to become great as followers of Jesus, our greatness will come from the way of love of all our neighbors and all our enemies, the way of humility as members of a common humanity and community of all creation, the way of working for justice with the poor and oppressed, the way of bringing affordable healing and care for all people, the way of welcoming the stranger and the refugee, the way of reuniting families instead of tearing them apart, the way of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, the way of providing homes for the homeless, the way of peacemaking and not hate-making and fear-making, the way of opening our hearts and our homes to people of different religions and no religion, the way of listening to and respecting women, the way in which the lives of people of color matter just as much as the lives of white people, the way of restorative justice rather than retributive justice, the way in which all persons are treated equally as persons of sacred worth regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the way of repairing and regenerating the earth as we care for all creation.

If we as followers of Jesus in the United States are to become great, we must turn over the tables of injustice in our land, we must become lovers of all humanity and all creation, we must become willing to take up our cross and actually follow the one whom we claim to follow and work sacrificially to create the Beloved Community of All Creation. if we do these things, then we have an opportunity to contribute to the goodness of our nation and the flourishing of all persons and the whole planet, and that my dear Christian American siblings would really be great.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. He is the Executive Director of the Leadership, Education, and Development (LEaD) Hub North America of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church and an Oklahoma Humanities State Scholar. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University or the United Methodist Church.
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One Response to Becoming Great

  1. Mark, in reading the gospels it seems that Jesus was very unambiguous in stating in his context what you have stated in our context. He had a word for doing what you have outlined so clearly in your statement and that was “salvation”. If one is to gain one’s life, they must give it to the benefit of the beloved human community. If one is to find salvation they will find it here. AND, you do not have to be afraid. Now is that time once again when our character of what it means to be human is being called forth for the sake of the beloved community. Thank you for your giving voice to the gospel of our time.

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