At Easter, I threw a challenge to the leaders in my network: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. This challenge was triggered by inspiration I received when I had just returned from a college graduation the week before Holy Week. Although it had been a season of graduation ceremonies in Ghana across many tertiary institutions, this was a special one, a very special one.
About six years ago, our family travelled to Ghana from Canada on furlough. We had planned to stay the entire period at my parents-in-love’s residence in Accra. Being a reasonably big-sized big family (the children weren’t even seven yet!) we obviously needed some domestic assistance. We were glad to welcome a promising young lady, Benedicta, as our new house help after a couple of failed trials.
As we lived with her and observed her initiative, diligence, smartness, humility, kindness and care we took an extra interest in what her ultimate dream was. She had the potential to be like any one of us high income, high impact professionals and not necessarily having to be confined to a vocation of domestic assistance her entire life. We found out about her high school final grades and thought they could be improved. And so we (my wife and I, parents-in-love and other family members) decided to invest in her, everything from extra classes through re-sit examinations. Even when she was finally given a shot at college my mother-in-law would get her books and do mock interviews with her to prepare for the entrance interviews. Long story short, she made it into nursing college.Now, that is the graduation we went for that day.
Today, Benedicta is a nurse. She graduated from the Nurses & Midwives Training College in Teshie, Accra, Ghana. From house help to nurse; and that is what brought me to the Easter challenge because at Easter, we see the ultimate leader Himself laying down His life for the people He saw value in. At the risk of sounding holier-than-though, the previous family she left to serve ours was just about to invest in her to be a fried pork seller by the street.
Everybody knows John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But what a lot of people who are not schooled in Trinitarian theology don’t realize is that this scripture is basically saying that God so loved the world—God so saw value in you and me—that he gave Himself for us, because God is Father-Son-Spirit. The ultimate leader laid down Himself for our uplifting.
This giving of Himself or laying down His life for us is spoken of by St. Paul’s to the Church in Philippi in such humble and humbling terms. He begins in Philippians 2:5 by exhorting that “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Let’s take Eugene Peterson’s contemporary version:
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” 
Wow! God becoming a man was not just humbling, it was humiliating. Yet even when formed and found in appearance of a human, he could’ve been a very proud man but no! He was down-to-earth and mingled with tax collectors and ‘sinners’. In fact, it was on the night he was betrayed–during Holy Week–that He washed his own disciples’ dirty and stinky feet and wiped them with a towel around his waist.
The way up is down, for because of this humble attitude and action, “God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”  Even those who are not voluntarily honoring Jesus now will bow one day, compelled. All shall bow to the one who first bowed the lowest and is now raised the highest.
As a leader, I want to challenge you to choose one person, choose one thing to do this month (we’re still in the month of Easter) that involves laying down your preference, time, or money, sacrificing something, dying a little so that someone can live, graduate, have a better life etc. I challenge you to do that because that is the essence of ultimate leadership. Leadership is not about us, it is about those who take inspiration, follow, and learn from us who we get to empower and guide; those around us.
It’s sad to see so many places in the world, especially in Africa, where government official think it is all about them. Unfortunately, even in the church there are a myriad instances where pastors are doing extremely well socioeconomically and there are congregants who are not faring well, at all. Sometimes these leaders are literally fleecing the people, milking them dry till they bleed. That’s not leadership at all, and certainly not servant leadership. Leadership is laying down our lives, laying down our gifts so that others will be blessed. It is going down to pick the downtrodden and lifting them up.
Cecelia Chan poignantly put it this way: “Instead of laying a red carpet for yourself to walk on, lay a bridge and let the young people walk over to you.” This is my challenge to you, at Easter and beyond: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. God bless and honour you too as you learn to lead like Jesus.
 Philippians 2:5-8, The Message
 Philippians 2:9-11, The Message