The Politics of Service

I’ve posted over on the Political Theology Today blog again, this time on Jesus’ teaching on ‘servant leadership’.

There are many prominent examples of theological code-switching in the New Testament, whereby terms and phrases with familiar weight and significance in a given frame of reference are given new meanings, invested with different values, or radically re-contextualized. Values and terms such as strength and weakness, master and servant, freedman and slave, rich and poor, or exaltation and humiliation are frequently code-switched in the most surprising ways within the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. Within Mark 10 we encounter one of the most significant examples of this, as Jesus contrasts the pattern of rule that holds among the Gentile nations to that which must be among his disciples, declaring that any who would be first or greatest among them must be the servants of all.

Such examples of code-switching need to be approached and handled with considerably more care and attention than they commonly receive. There are various dangers that surface at such points. Perhaps the greatest of these is the temptation to resort to a sort of code-switching that leaves underlying injustices and inequities unaddressed and often even discourages action. An impotent yet palliating transvaluation that neither effects nor entails transformation can take the place of meaningful change. The poor, we may be told, for instance, are rich in Christ, yet such fine-sounding affirmations are seldom embodied either in behaviour that treats the poor as enjoying any spiritual advantage nor in the concern for their material needs that should accompany such recognition. Misuse of code-switching can dull us to injustice, substituting for, rather than spurring on, concerted efforts towards overcoming it. Ultimately, however, the world is not saved by redescription, but by resurrection.

Read the whole piece here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, Mark, NT, Politics, Society, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.