Simon Walker, in his section on the self-emptying strategy, explores power in weakness. For many people in history, Jesus – from a social perspective – was a victim of injustice by the false charges of envious leaders. Christianity would argue that Christ’s death was no accident, it was done willingly. Jesus would show his followers that death would be the very act that would release a power that would change both the social and spiritual order of the day. For Jesus it wasn’t the end, it was the beginning. Walker states “The power of Jesus’ death doesn’t lie in some macabre embrace of death itself, in some dark gothic fantasy; rather, it lies in what Jesus followers say his death made possible: life. Christians see the death of Jesus as an act that brought life.”
The story of death and resurrection brings hope and strength to those in need. None of us can escape death; it represents our powerlessness and confirms our humanness. The story of the death and resurrection of Jesus brings into the question the permanence and power of death. It breeds in us a level of hope that life after death may be more powerful than life before death. Walker explains, “It appears that, under certain circumstances, this imbalance – the weakness of one against the immoral strength of the other — can bring about a radical shift in power.” In a world steeped with those seeking power and position, one can wonder how willingly laying aside power can lead to an altering of events! “Here is one answer: self-sacrifice can draw out the evil of the enemy.” Self-sacrifice brings people to a place of choice. It causes us to stand and take a second look, to think hard thoughts. It challenges us to take personal responsibility and own our choices. In other words it brings us to a place of decision. A decision that invites something to happen to us. It forces us to put skin in the game.
Having skin in the game is part of being a risk taker. What can be riskier than laying aside one’s right for power? Nassim Taleb, in his book Skin in The Game, sees Jesus as a risk taker. His suffering on the cross and self-sacrifice for the sake of others made him have the ultimate skin in the game. The idea that God became flesh to die for all humanity in the form of a man is what made it possible for all of us to have skin in the game. “We will see that, traditionally, there is not religion without some skin in the game.”
Being an undefended leader is a way of being anti-fragile. Laying aside power is risky; it gives a leader skin in the game. When leaders have skin in the game followers are willing to trust their leadership. Several years ago I was in a near death car accident. I had a head on collision that shattered my left hip and damaged my left side. I spent 17 days in the hospital, 21 days in rehab, 6 months on crutches and a year of physical therapy. Other than pictures, the only real proof that I had the accident is the 21-inch scar running down my left side. We often look down on Thomas for doubting that Jesus rose from the dead. We forget that many of the other disciples were also skeptical until after Jesus showed up. Thomas wanted to see the scars that proved it was Jesus. For Thomas the scars were the proof that Jesus had skin in the game. Emptying one’s self and becoming undefended is not only risky it can also be painful. But then again who said having skin in the game was going to be easy.