Daily D – John 13:16-17
“Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
JOHN 13:16-17 (CSB)
Deference is an important idea we seldom discuss and frequently ignore. It is deference that makes unity and productivity possible.
Jesus prays about our unity in John 17:21-23. It is hard to remain unified with some people. This fact does not require much exposition and illustration, does it? There are certain kinds of people each of us has a hard time relating to with patience, kindness, and deference. Learning to master our emotions and to remember that it’s never too early to shut up help us at this point.
There are other helpful tips and tricks. Consider Psalm 133:1. It says, “How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” The Message paraphrases these few powerful words this way:
How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along.
The Apostle Paul writes about how to live with one another in unity in a number of places in his letters to churches and postcards to individuals. Ephesians 5:15 and following are especially prescient. Verse 21 appears to hold together everything Paul says from verse 15 to verse 33 and even on into 16:1-9.
Take a look at different translations of this verse and notice where each places this it in the chapter. The Christian Standard Bible places verse 21 at the end of a paragraph as does the New American Standard Bible. The New International Version sets off this verse by itself as does the New Living Translation.
The Christian Standard Bible has this verse complete a long sentence beginning in verse 18 by saying, “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” The Message says, “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.”
In other words, get good at deferring.
Deference is hard to do for prideful people like you and me. Consider, however, the impact of learning to lean back when we would prefer to lean in. I lead a team of coworkers. My best leadership is most often practiced by leaning back in deference to the knowledge and wisdom of my coworkers.
Gary has a masterful grasp of financial and legal matters. I will never know what he knows and could never do what he does. I joyfully defer to him.
Troy has a masterful grasp on contemporary communication and entrepreneurship that exceeds anything I could conceive. I joyfully defer to him.
Cynthia has a masterful grasp on the power of place and possibility that bears such hope and such longing that I can only stand back with admiration. I joyfully defer to her.
Becky has a masterful grasp on connection and presence that I lean on to help me step in when I would rather step back. Her ability to hear and obey God in the moment excels anyone I know. I joyfully defer to her.
Once upon a time, a room full of tired men with dirty feet who each thought he was better than the others witnessed the One who was in the beginning with God and through whom all things were created, the very Light of the World (John 1:1-5), kneel in deference to a need to provide an example of how self-important people should learn to kneel in humble service.
Great leaders serve. Great leaders defer. If our Lord and Master kneels to serve dirty, angry, impetuous followers, so should we. Unity requires deference and service. Unity makes possible cooperation and collaboration. Unity empowers us to experience what Jesus said in John 14:12:
And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
To whom will you defer today?
I will defer to those who are better than me and to those who are in greater need than am I.
Our Father, teach me the blessing of bowing in deference. Teach me the high value of kneeling in service. Remind me often how much I require the strengths of others to become my best self. Thank you that I do not have to manage life on my own strengths and merits. Thank you that I can serve alongside such amazing people who are smarter, better, faster than me. Amen.
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Deuteronomy 8:12-18 When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint rock for you. He fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your ancestors had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm his covenant he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.“
Deuteronomy 1:2, 3 It is an eleven-day journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea by way of Mount Seir. In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, Moses told the Israelites everything the Lord had commanded him to say to them.