“When Jesus was in the house He asked His disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35
It is both ironic and relevant, and I had to laugh as I read it again, that this argument among the disciples took place “on the road.” For that is the very place where many (myself included) often push to be “first.” My lane slows to a halt while the other seems to be moving, so I quickly change lanes to move ahead and “lo and behold” the new lane's traffic stops as fast as I move into it. We sometimes fail to graciously yield to the driver trying to enter traffic, or follow the courtesy of every-other-car when lanes are forced to merge. From a distance away I choose the shortest lane at the toll booth, and, what do you know, something causes one car ahead to sit there while the once longer lane I avoided speeds on its way car by car. Hurrying to catch a plane at the airport I choose the escalator where the “disorganized” Americans fail to recognize the “civilized manner” of standing, or as the British say, queuing, to the right so one can hurry past. Pulling into the parking lot of a popular restaurant that takes no reservations there is the compulsion to hurry to the door as quickly as possible to get your name on the list for the next available table. My daughter recently shared her experience of trying to board an airplane in one foreign country where the customers crowded toward the door en masse pushing others aside despite the fact everyone already had assigned seats. Her description after the fact was hysterical, but the experience was not very pleasant in the moment.
While there may at times be mitigating circumstances that call for us to hurry if we can, we all must admit that there is an instinct in our nature to behave as the disciples did here in many kinds of life situations. We may not argue per say that we are the greatest, like Muhammad Ali used to “perform” for the media, but our behavior and our thought process says something akin to it. We feel our agenda is very important; more important than others around us. We sense if we do not hurry we may miss out. We take to heart the axiom that “the early bird gets the worm” for every situation, even when it means counting ourselves as more important than another. It is not an instinct that disappears when we come to know and follow Christ. It did not for the disciples; and I know myself as well and have observed many other Christians. In my own experience when I have come across a believing man or woman, who talks little of them self, graciously gives way to others, is calm and controlled when others are rushed and harried, and does not seek the place or seat of prominence in place of others, I am impressed that I am in the presence of someone who has taken the Savior’s personality to heart, described in Philippians 2, and simultaneously are always conscious of their own shortcomings; seeing their true nature.
Observing such a one, which I have found to be rare, makes a powerful impression on us. But such impressions alone are not powerful enough to transform our own character in turning away from the nature that instinctively drives our inner spirit; from the compulsion of the tyranny of the urgent in our own agenda; from the incessant prick and suggestions of the arrows of the evil one; to wearing Jesus’ attitude as our own heart and skin. This is what it means for “Christ to be formed in you.” It necessitates a fighting resolve by your spirit to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus no matter the pressures or leisure of the moment. And most of all it calls for a humility of indebtedness; what He has accomplished for you can only be reciprocated with love. Genuine love imitates Him! “We love [Him and others] because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19)