Yoder on Jesus and lording it over.
22 June 2010 Nonviolence
But Jesus called them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant” (Mt. xx.25-26)
John Howard Yoder produced an excellent commentary on the above passage.
After perfection the next trait is servanthood, or renouncing lordship. In all of the Gospels, in different ways, Jesus tells his disciples to be servants. In the first three Gospels this teaching is given in very parallel ways, although reported in different places within the story: Jesus says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. . . . Not so with you” . . . Jesus does not say that the fact that rulers exercise dominion over their subjects is a bad thing, as if it could be done away with through some kind of anarchistic development that his followers would promote. Neither does he say that it is a good thing, so that it should be blessed and supported by Christians in an active way, as they did beginning with Constantine. Jesus merely says that it is the case: rulers do dominate. We might call him positivistic. But while not saying it is either good or bad, he says that it is not for his disciples. They have a different task, namely to be servants. The reason they are to be servants is that he is servant. Thus this second mark of the Christian style of involvement in conflict is derived not from an analysis of the stakes or the setting but from a reflection upon the style of Jesus as a person in society. He did not avoid conflict. In fact, he sometimes even provoked it. Yet within it he renounced, intentionally and not merely out of weakness, the temptation to impose his will upon others through superior power. – John H. Yoder, The War of the Lamb, 147
Jesus renounced the idea of having power over, of enforcing our own will—e.g. the Christian will—on others. We are not to have or seek the seats of control and power: “It must not be this way among you!.” The Way of Jesus is different from the way of the kingdoms of this world.