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 9:35
I love the month of July. For three weeks, right in the middle of the summer, one of the most grueling sporting events takes place in Europe – the Tour de France. All the dopers aside, this 21 stage event provides some of the greatest drama in all of endurance sports. Team tactics, breakaways, incredible sprints, and the beauty and energy of the alpine stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps create an event like no other. Whether you follow cycling or not (probably not), this event provides a level of excitement unparalleled anywhere else in the world of sports.
One of the unique facets of the Tour that most people never catch is the role of the team Domestique. This name is given to the cyclist(s) who sacrifices himself and his opportunity to win so that it will hopefully increase the chances of victory for his team leader. The term, domestique, actually means “servant.” This team member’s role is multi-faceted: he provides protection to the team, drops back to the team car to pick up food and water to distribute to the team, serves as a windbreak to the team leader in crucial points of the race – basically, he sacrifices his strength to keep the team leader strong. To borrow a quote from one race commentator, he summed it up this way, “the strong will build the strongest into everlasting champions.” That’s the role of the domestique.
The domestique provides us a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ words in Mark. The disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest. Jesus, knowing their hearts and thoughts, used that moment to teach them a valuable lesson on service. It’s no secret that we live in a world that is opposite from these teachings. You usually don’t see these type of stories glamorized on the news. Our focus is usually on the superstars –those whose actions demand attention. The servant usually is not the MVP. He is usually not the person with the recognition. It’s a lowly position, but one of great value in God’s kingdom.
Imagine a world where there were no superstars. A world where everyone was treated equally and the prize winners were the individuals who won because they served other people. I think it is safe to say that the 10:00 news would be altogether different. The newspaper headlines would not look like they did in today’s paper. Maybe our world that seems so out of balance, sometimes, would be more in balance. Idealistic, you say? I’d rather refer to it as Biblical. That is the design for us as followers of Christ. Read it again in Mark 9:35. As a matter of fact, read it throughout the New Testament and throughout the teachings of Jesus. God’s design for His kingdom on this earth is that of service – to each other and to Him. His words in Matthew 25:31ff serve as a reminder of that when He said, “When you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto Me.”
Yes, I love July. Not only do I get to watch the excitement and drama of professional cycling unfold over the roads of Europe, but I am reminded of my role in God’s kingdom. Lord, help me today to sacrifice my desires so that someone else might win. GO TEAM!
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