One of the most overused, misunderstood, and confusing things in the church is the idea of leadership. This is especially true when it comes to men in relation to women. It’s my hope today to make that even more confusing. Just kidding. Maybe.
Before we get biblical so to speak, let me throw out three simple thoughts on leadership. Being a leader is not super complicated. It requires really two main things. First you have to be going somewhere. Second, someone has to be following you. Just because you strike out in a direction does not make you a leader. That just makes you going somewhere, which is great. But to be a leader means that you actually lead others.
Secondly, it’s also important to note that leadership is not contingent upon being a “good” person. That would make you a “good” leader in a sense. But as I’ve mentioned before you can be a bad person and an effective leader. Hitler had a ton of followers. As awful as that was it would be ridiculous to say that he was not a leader.
Jesus was of course the greatest leader in history by any definition of the term. He changed the world order. As a follower of Jesus our hope is that we can lead people towards Him and His kingdom. Which brings us to point three – we have to first be a follower of Him in order to lead towards Him. I want to clarify that before we start looking at leading others because even though we can learn a lot about leadership from looking at Jesus and how He led, if we aren’t actually following Him then really we aren’t going to the right direction to begin with. And remember, direction matters.
Now all of that seems pretty straight forward. So why is it that we are all so confused in the context of singleness and marriage? There are a lot of reasons.
Some of it has to do with the fact that in order to sound more with the times in our culture we have sort of used the word leadership in some places that aren’t necessarily biblical. They sound biblical but they add to the confusion.
One of the places this happens is when we say that the man is the spiritual leader of the household when he is married.
What most people refer to is the scripture in Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul is giving instruction to the people of Ephesus about life and in this particular part talks about husbands and wives. He says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ as the head of the church. He commands the husbands to love and give themselves up for their wives and wives to submit to and respect their husbands.
Now whole books have been written about this and I have only a few hundred words here so we are going to keep it in the context of our conversation here.
The first thing to note is that this is not conditional. Just as the vows you take on your wedding day are not conditional. When you make the vows you don’t say, “I promise to love and cherish and not forsake you if you do these certain things”. No your promise is unconditional. Until death. That’s the vow. It’s a covenant not a contract. This is similar. Paul doesn’t say, “Husbands love your wife if you feel in love” or “Love your wife if your romantically attracted at the time” or “love your wife if she is nice to you”. Nor does he say, “Wives submit to your husband when you feel like its a good idea” or “submit to your husband if he’s earned it that day”. It’s a command for each person regardless of the situation.*
The second thing to note here is that the word leadership isn’t used. The word head is used to name the role, and the instructions to the man (instructions for the head) describe what he is to do. But nowhere is he called the leader. It’s not that he doesn’t lead. As the head, Christ leads the church – by loving it no matter what. But he does have positional authority. Leading is a part of the job description, but it’s not the job title.
Now here is where everyone freaks out. We don’t like that. So what happens is one of the following:
Some say, “It talks about mutually submitting before that . . . ” That is just a terrible argument. You can say, “What was true for Ephesus isn’t true now.” That’s an argument. I disagree with it. But that makes some sense and I can respect it. But pretending Paul doesn’t mean what he says is weak and intellectually dishonest.
Some want to abuse it. This happens when we give men the role (head) without the instructions (love, give your self up etc). This is where men can abuse their position. This has for sure happened throughout history and still happens today.
But most in evangelical culture today want to say essentially, “Men, this is your position, if you do everything right and earn it. Your wife will let you know when that is.” I know that’s a little sarcastic. But this is really does seem to be the message. Do it all right and then it will all go right. That last sentence is dangerous on a lot of levels.
We like the term “spiritual leader” because it sounds better than head. But what we end up telling guys is: If you lead well, you’ll be the head. What we need to instead say is: you’re the head, so lead well. When we get this wrong, we basically want men to take on the responsibilities that he has without giving him the role that he should have. Why would anyone want that?
Once you’re married – from a biblical perspective, you’re the head. You can either be a good one or a bad one and your wife is not necessarily the grade card on that.
Wow! We just covered a lot of ground not very deeply. You still might be thinking, “what in the heck does this have to do with me the single man?” In my next post I’ll give you some thoughts on why how you view this is so important. For now I’d ask you to think about exactly that. How do you view all of this?
*I understand that there may be extreme conditions that would be exceptions – such as abuse etc. but we have turned everything into an exception and it isn’t working out well.