I recently changed the URL of my other blog on Tumblr to “hegeomai.tumblr.com.” Immediately people started asking, “What the heck does hegeomai mean?” And I’m sure you’re wondering the same thing.
I’m glad you asked. Hegeomai is, to put it simply, a word with a definition that is incredibly significant to me and how I live my life.
I remember where I was when I learned the word’s meaning. A group of students of Christ and I were sitting on the dirty blue carpet of a meeting room at a camp that I had attended since I was eight years old. This room had seemed massive and intimidating when I was about four feet tall and surrounded by people; seven years later, it seemed a little smaller and it felt like home. This time, though, I wasn’t there for a children’s camp, a field trip, or a backpacking trip. I was gearing my heart to serve refugee children from over a dozen countries as a support staff member.
The camp director was addressing the group of counselors who were going to be loving on these children for the next three days for Easter Camp. The devotional was in Philippians, a book that I have studied often and love dearly, so I was eager to hear what the director had to say.
Now, I’m the type of person who writes in my Bible’s margins… a lot. I love when a sermon has something insightful or historical enough to make it onto the actual pages of my trusty purple Bible, not just on a 3×5 card marking the page – and trust me, there’s plenty of those. Unfortunately for my margins, this devotional was in Philippians 2, a chapter that I have read, studied, loved, and marked to death. But don’t worry – one thing that I’ve found in the past few months as my margins have filled beyond capacity is that there’s always room for another note.
So my new blog URL comes from a word that now graces the right-hand side of chapter two of Philippians in my Bible in the ink of my favorite black pen. Hegeomai is a Greek word that is used throughout the New Testament. The particular verse in which it was being emphasized at camp is found in Philippians 2:3, which says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves.” The italicized phrase is what the camp director explained to us is the definition of the Greek term. Hegeomai is, essentially, a “you go first” attitude. It is showing an example of esteeming others and valuing people above oneself. It is seeing unhappiness or discomfort for a short time as worth the pain for the sake of Christ being glorified ultimately.
There are examples throughout the Bible of this kind of attitude being exhibited. Moses, in Hebrews 11:26, is said to have “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Paul, in Acts 26: 2, said to King Agrippa, “I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews.”
But the most exciting thing of all is that the ultimate form of hegeomai is fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2 continues to say that Christ “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Truly greater love has no one than this.
Upon further study, one finds that hegeomai also can be translated as “leading” or “guiding.” This apparent paradox, the dilemma of how one could lead while simultaneously considering everyone else higher than oneself, is the surpassing beauty of Christ’s example on earth of how to be a Christ-like servant leader. His entire life was dedicated to serving others, yet he was a leader whose followers were willing to die for his sake.
Living out hegeomai is about being that kind of servant leader with our lives because it is what He has called us to. Leadership according to Christ is not bossing others around, looking down one’s nose, and calling all the shots. Servant leadership ishegeomai – continuously regarding the needs of others without thought to our own needs, setting the example for believers and unbelievers alike. Whether or not we are in a position of leadership, this is how we are called to live as a servant of Christ.
And as for me, I know that I am the servant and this is the servant’s call. Be it touching lives from twenty countries at once at a camp where my life was once touched, mentoring high school girls who need an example and direction, or anything else to which He may lead me… This is the servant’s call.