Monday, February 13, 2017

Leadership Is Overrated - Thoughts on Love & Marriage

I love my wife: it is my primary calling as husband. Leadership is not.
Bear with me. I know love and leadership are not mutually exclusive. However, during twenty years of following Jesus, the fist-pounding for male leadership has grown more pronounced.  "Make the hard decisions! Take the big hits! Set the family tone! God expects more of you, men!" These exhortations build into a bold declaration: "Husbands, fathers, and pastors must be leaders."

I've read, heard, and probably articulated similar claims to male superiority (though many wouldn't call it that). Sadly, I cannot seem to find the biblical references.* Jesus rebuffed any grasp for power (Mark 14:35-45; John 19:10-11); he modeled servitude unto his death on a splintered cross (Phil. 2:6-8). Love trumps leadership every time.

I revisited this topic last week following a conversation with a young adult considering marriage. Like many young, Christians men, my conversation partner admitted his hesitancy to get married because his lack of spiritual leadership. "If I can't lead her, should I get married?" he wondered.

It is a fair and noble question, but somewhat off the mark. I took him to Ephesians 5:25-33 to consider the husband's primary calling. Silently, he perused the text. Then I asked, "Where does it say, 'Husband lead your wives?'"

"The husband is 'the head' of the wife," he noted.

"You're right. It does say that. Just like Jesus is the head of the church. Is that the same as a command to lead?" Neither of us was certain.

"Look at the passage again," I prompted. "What is the primary command to husbands in this passage?"

"Is it love?" he replied after a minute's reflection.

A glimpse at the following verses makes it clear: A husband's primary calling is to love.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33, ESV)
Love is primary; leadership follows. Love may result in leadership, but we cannot force or fake love to secure authority. Love's greater aim to please God and enrich others in His name.

A husband who demands to lead may not have an unruly wife; he may have feeble love. Learning best practices in leadership is no substitute for Jesus' course on selfless love: give and forgive; serve and sacrifice; tend and care; listen and, well, listen some more.

Husbands, your wives don't need you to be a better leader -- leadership is overrated -- but a better lover. Now get to it.

*Two "headship" passages (Ephesians 5; 1 Corinthians 11) come to mind. This metaphor is challenging and open to varied interpretations. I think cultural context plays heavily into application here. Not to mention references are not commands (imperatives) but ontological statements.

1 comment:

Dave Holabeck said...

Love this Tim. The church needs truth like this. Amen my good friend.