The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Every good leader I’ve known has been a servant.
Jesus set the pace for us when he said to his disciples, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). With all his divinity, all his power and authority, the Savior remained a servant.
His apostles followed in his footsteps. Paul (Romans 1:1), James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1) introduced themselves as servants when writing to the church. They were no doubt powerful and influential leaders, but they were servants first—to Christ and to others.
When Christians today think about exercising and submitting to authority in the home and the church, we must recognize that the foundation of all leadership, the bedrock of all authority, lies in humble service.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates Galatians 5:13 this way: “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.”
We are free people in Christ—free from the law, free from sin, free from condemnation. But we are not free to treat others as we please. That would be a misappropriation of grace. Instead, we channel our Christian freedom into loving service to others. Paul put it this way: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
Husbands and fathers, God has given you authority in your home (see Ephesians 5:22-33 and 6:4) but you are not to wield it selfishly or capriciously. Instead, you are to be a servant to your family. The needs of every other family member must come before your own (see Philippians 2:3, 4).
Elders, God has called you to lead and protect his precious flock (see Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1, 2). The members of your congregation have been called to submit to your authority (Hebrews 13:17). But you must not use your position to control, dominate, or manipulate (1 Peter 5:3) because one day you will have to stand before the Chief Shepherd and account for your actions (5:6).
While those in charge are not to abuse their authority but rather use it to serve others in the body of Christ, still they are in charge, and their authority must be respected and honored.
So wives, submit to your husband’s spiritual leadership. Kids, “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). Church members, “obey your leaders and submit to their authority” (Hebrews 13:17).
When those who exercise authority in the home and in the church are fulfilling their callings in ways that honor God, it won’t be hard to follow their lead.