Who shall be greatest?

A Christian Science perspective: Moving beyond this question leads to the answers we’re truly looking for.

National news reports confirmed that the water supply in Flint, Mich., was contaminated with lead for nearly two years before state and local officials began working together to solve the problem. While there are a host of reasons why it took so long to recognize the problem, one thing that’s become clear is that political finger-pointing does not bring the progress needed to find solutions.

Stagnation in government because of an ever widening divide between opposing political parties is a common refrain in politics today. Each side struggles with the age-old question “Who shall be greatest?” But posing this question doesn’t lead to answers.

There was a time during Christ Jesus’ ministry when he explained this point to his 12 closest disciples who were arguing over who would be the greatest. Jesus said: “Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27, New Living Translation). With his words and his actions, Jesus reminds them that only through humility and self-sacrifice can one effectively lead the people and serve as a model of behavior for others to emulate. In his Sermon on the Mount he instructs his followers to turn the other cheek when wronged (see Matthew 5:39) and that it is essential to love not just our neighbors and friends but our enemies as well (see Matthew 5:43, 44). In the spiritual laws that he laid down in the Beatitudes he promises that “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth” (Matthew 5:5, New Living Translation). His example and the divine laws of love that he gave us continue to be effective and powerful agents for change 2,000 years later: Love and humility strengthen leadership and truly prove our worth.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, explained in 1902 that “competition in commerce, deceit in councils, dishonor in nations, dishonesty in trusts, begin with ‘Who shall be greatest?’ ” Speaking of God as divine Love, she said, “To live and let live, without clamor for distinction or recognition; to wait on divine Love; to write truth first on the tablet of one’s own heart, – this is the sanity and perfection of living, and my human ideal” (“Message to The Mother Church for 1902,” pp. 4 and 2).

From the inspiration of Christ Jesus’ teachings, she taught that it is natural for each of us – even our leaders in government – to be led by divine Truth and Love, which are synonyms for God. In the book about her discovery of Christian Science she wrote that in fact every one of us is “conceived and born of Truth and Love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 463), so we inherently express the spiritual qualities that come from God in being truthful and loving. When we see that we share this common heritage as God’s children, it becomes more natural for us to work together in harmony. No single individual or ideology shall be greatest, but God, divine Principle – which is above all, governing all. Ruled by the inspiration that comes from divine Truth and Love, we are guided by God in times of crisis. And being led by God to be honest and loving in this way makes for truly inspirational leadership.

Back in Michigan, we have already witnessed how humble leadership and a spirit of brotherly partnership can transform a city and turn around even the most difficult challenges, as the exit from bankruptcy begins to bear fruit in Detroit. But the spirit of brotherhood begins with each of us. Rather than seek individual distinction, or assert one’s own agenda, let each of us strive to see that, as Mrs. Eddy writes on page 3 of her 1902 address to The Mother Church, “right is the only real potency; and the only true ambition is to serve God and to help the race.” So much good can be accomplished when we recognize our true brotherhood and follow the spirit of Truth and Love.

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