Christian leaders are called to be servants. We understand that. After all, Jesus made it pretty clear that he wanted leaders who would follow his example as one who touched lepers, washed feet, and bore the burdens of a broken world.
But what if being a servant isn’t always a good thing? Or, said a little differently, what if there are various ways to be a servant, and some of them aren’t quite what Jesus had in mind?
A while back I asked a group of teenagers to discuss which of Marvel’s Avengers best exemplified the biblical idea of a servant. And quite a few of them went with Tony Stark (aka Iron Man). After all, he dedicates a considerable portion of his wealth to helping humanity, and he routinely puts his own life on the line to save random strangers. And to top it all off, at the end of Avengers (spoiler alert!), he sacrifices his own life to save the world. You can’t get much more Jesus-like than that! (Granted, he didn’t actually succeed in sacrificing his life, but he gets points for trying.)
For many of my students, then, Tony Stark exemplifies servanthood. But here’s the problem: Stark only exemplifies a particularly dangerous and toxic form of servanthood, but it’s the one that we often find the most attractive.