What is greatness? I imagine it’s one of those things that you know it when you see it. But what is it really? Part of it will depend on the characteristics of greatness. Many different people lay claim to the word, but have very different definitions and characteristics of what greatness is.
There is a certain political leader who adopted the word great right into his campaign slogan. Based on what I hear from him, he defines greatness = power.
Others define greatness in terms of wealth. Sports people will define greatness in terms of records broken.
How do you define greatness?
How would you define it in terms of politics, social policy, governance, finances, sports, work? Is it great to deport people and tear families apart? Or would you rather say that it is great when we enforce the immigration laws that exist?
Is it great to build a wall to keep foreigners out? Or is it great to build a wall to keep people in?
Is it great to govern from a mentality that only the strong deserve to survive? Is it great to ignore the cries of the poor and homeless?
Is greatness defined by how many enemies we can kill? Is greatness defined by how much material wealth we can accumulate in our lifetime? Is it great then to have to turn it over to someone else when we die?
Is it great to shout over your opponents, be disrespectful, and label and dehumanize your opponents?
Is greatness the ability to constantly draw attention to yourself?
Is greatness defined by military might?
Is greatness defined by how many people become reliant on you?
Is greatness defined by license to do whatever you want, with who ever you want, when you want?
If you look through human history, you would see that the “great” empires of the past could all lay claim to many of these definitions of greatness – Babylon, Egypt, Rome, Greece under Alexander, and more. They might differ on some of these, but they share one thing in common – they all fell eventually and left a big mess for others to clean up. And they brought ruin to those they conquered and eventually ruin on their own people.
That is because greatness can never ultimately be found at the end of a rifle or in mandatory compliance and unwavering allegiance. Greatness isn’t found in blindness to the needs of others. Greatness isn’t found in being able to beat other into submission.
Greatness comes in a different way.
Jesus had a definition of greatness. In Mark 10:43, Jesus states, “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.”
Greatness comes in being a servant and in participating in the unfolding of the kingdom of God. It goes far beyond human made national boundaries and weapons. It goes beyond wealth, records, and political parties and slogans.
Greatness comes in living out our faith, not in subjugating faith to ideology. When ideology is our foundation in life, we have built a life and a nation on a weak foundation that will crumble and eventually fall.
God has a different standard for what is great. And it is a great standard that Jesus modeled and calls on us to follow. Be great.