Humble Leadership, Part 1

It’s amazing to me how consistently the New Testament warns those who are leaders against using their God-given authority in a demeaning and selfish way. Almost every time the NT epistles speak of submitting to authority they follow up that command with a warning against the tendency of leaders to be abuse authority. God “knows our frame” and thus hedges commands to submit graciously with commands to lead graciously. Despite the many examples of overbearing leadership we have all seen in various arenas, God puts a premium on gentle leadership—in the home, in the church, and in the workplace. Though I’m painfully aware of my own pride, I’d like to pursue the topic through a series of blog posts. For starters, let’s just look at the data. We’ll draw conclusions from it in later posts.

1.  God requires husbands to lead with humility.

Having established the need for wives to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22-25, Colossians 3:18, and 1 Peter 3:1-6, Scripture warns husbands not to take advantage of their headship by exercising it abrasively:

Ephesians 5:25-33a “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself…”

Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

1 Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

2.  God requires parents (and especially fathers) to lead with humility.

After commanding children to obey their parents in Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20, Scripture immediately warns fathers against wielding their God-given authority in an exasperating way:

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

3.  God requires masters (in our context, employers) to lead with humility.

Moving on from family relationships, Scripture commands slaves/employees to submit to their masters in Ephesians 6:5-8 and Colossians 3:22-25, then immediately follows up those instructions with commands for masters/employers to lead gently:

Ephesians 6:9 “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”

Colossians 4:1 “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”

4.  God requires pastors to lead with humility.

Unlike the other examples, warnings to church leaders don’t immediately follow the commands for those under their authority to obey. Still, whereas Scripture commands Christians to submit to spiritual leaders in passages like Hebrews 13:17, it also warns church leaders against power-mongering.

1 Peter 5:1-4 “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

1 Timothy 3:3 “…not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome…”

2 Timothy 2:24-25a “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness…”

Each of these passages is convicting in its own right. However, together they give a powerful picture of gentle leadership. We’ll consider their combined lessons in the next post. Suffice for now to say that God requires those who are leaders to exercise their authority with humility.

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2 Responses

  1. excellent reminder

  2. […] Humble Leadership. […]

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