I have been studying various ways in which people apply Biblical principles to their lives. Some very interesting facts have come to my notice. Let me narrate a couple of them here.
After a Sunday school lesson on Ten Commandments, the Sunday school teacher asked the students, “Now, which of the Ten commandments applies to our relationship with our siblings?” A little girl thought for a few moments and brightly replied “Do not murder”
A pastor was sitting in a flight near an elderly woman. The woman was clutching a Bible, and praying. The woman’s uneasiness grew as the plane started taxiing and increased further as the flight took off. As the plane continued to climb higher, the woman kept getting more nervous and sweat drops were forming on her forehead. The pastor finally decided to intervene and told the woman “Now .. there is nothing to be afraid of, Jesus has said that “I am with you”. The woman quickly shot back. That is not what he said. He said “Low, I am with you”.
A family had the habit of treating their children for ice cream after the church service. One Sunday the father decided to break the habit. The children were not happy about it. They started whining. The father decided use spirituality to deal with the situation. He asked, “where in the bible is it said that we should eat immediately after the service?” The children turned out to be smarter than him, they replied, of course the Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.. “after all the Righteousness”, for they will be filled”
I am back here to speak on my favourite topic, Servant Leadership; and the question that struck me, as I started preparing for this message was this. What is the application of this in the lives of those who are going to spend 30 minutes listening to this message? Two things come to mind when we talk about application of a topic t our lives. First is; Is it doable by me? The second is; Is it applicable in my case, is it applicable in my day to day life? Let us look at it from the topic of today, Servant Leadership.
We know that Jesus practiced Servant Leadership. My earlier sermons have dwelt on it sufficiently enough. Very often, we have the tendency of saying, Jesus was God (and is God), so he could do those things, we are human and hence it is not possible for us to do all things. Sure! Granted! We cannot be like Jesus overnight. But the question is, do we really believe in what He said, in John 14:12 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do. I want us to keep this in mind when it comes to emulating the Servant Leadership behaviour demonstrated by Jesus.
And there are some times more basic questions. Is Servant Leadership Model really relevant to my day to day life? Isn’t it meant for Leaders in the church, or leaders in corporate, or leaders in NGOs? How about my day to day life? Let us try to find some answers to that basic question today.
Our everyday life, is made up of interactions, interactions with people around us. Whether we are at home, office, School, Church, neighborhood, shopping mall, flight or wherever, this is true. Is Servant Leadership relevant in such circumstances? Let us explore some of the relationships, where there is some sense of Leadership, or authority involved.
Let us first look at the man-woman relationship, the basic relationship for all families. One of the most controversial concepts of 20th century has been the concept of “Headship”, especially the headship of male. Talking of headship, and submissive wives, I am reminded of a story.
A man was diagnosed with a rare case of anemia and after many tests, the doctor told the wife the condition was bad. He told “Your husband will be dead within a few weeks without treatment. The good news is that this can be treated with proper nutrition. You will need to get up early morning everyday and make him freshly cooked pancakes, bacon and eggs. Then he will need to be fed with home cooked wholesome lunch. He will need to have freshly cooked mash potatoes with meat and home made bread for dinner every evening. These are the things that will allow your husband to live symptom-free. And one more thing, he is allergic to dust and dirt, so you will need to maintain your home spotlessly clean at all times. Do you have any questions?”.
The wife had no questions.
“Do you want to break the news to him or should I?” the doctor asked.
“I will” replied the wife.
The wife went into the room of the husband and sensing the seriousness of the situation, the husband nervously asked. “It is bad isn’t it?”
The wife nodded and could not control her tears. “Well tell me”. Insisted the husband. The wife burst into tears and wildly sobbing she said, “the doctor says you are going to die”.
Feminists claim that patriarchy (the affirmation of male authority over females) is the basis for most social pathology and for virtually all domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault. And they have reasons to claim this. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse by men is shockingly prevalent in our culture (in any culture for that matter). Even in the so called advanced society like US, domestic violence perpetrated by males accounts for more adult female emergency room visits than traffic accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, it is the greatest single cause of injury to American women. World Health Organization research indicates that at least one in five of the world’s females has been physically or sexually abused by a man or men at some time in her life. Abusive men often cite male headship/female submissiveness to justify their abuse. Ultimately, this is based on a perverted assumption of male superiority. The concept of male headship first entered the church through the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23), not through a wife-beating chauvinist. There are tons of literature out there studying the etymology of the Greek word “kephale” used by Paul in these verses. This word has traditionally been translated “head” in English. However there is an argument that we should render this word “source” or “source of life”, while some maintain the traditional definition “authority over.” This is a topic in which there could be many sermons and as many views. But I do not want to get into that today.
The question that I would like to address today is , Is the concept of male headship the real problem? My studies indicate that the answer is a certain “No”. In my opinion, the problem lies in the way we understand the concept of headship (male or otherwise) Widespread abuse of power is both anticipated and condemned in Scripture. Genesis 3:16 sadly predicts that one effect of the Fall would be a power struggle between the sexes. “He shall rule over you” is no divine prescription, but a tragic prediction of sin’s effects on the human race. Scripture declares that in our fallen world, those with power (represented typically by males, and people in authority) will use their power to exploit and abuse those with less power (represented typically by females and children or the poor) (Micah 2:9; Isa. 10:1-2; Ezek. 22:6-12). Due to inborn depravity, males often need little or no training to abuse their power; it is their default setting. This is the source of the Power and Authority Model of leadership, or the Power and Authority model of “Headship”. This is what the fall did to humanity. Fortunately for us we need not remain in that fallen state. That is where Christ comes in. He says, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28. The original author of “headship”, Paul says that Christ is the head of Man, and God is the Head of Christ (1 Cor 11:3). God does not use the Power and Authority model of leadership with Christ. Christ does not use the Power and Authority model of Leadership with man. So why should man use the Power and authority model of leadership with others? When we emulate Christ, we will no longer use the Power and Authority Model of Leadership, but will emulate his example of Servant Leadership. When we die to our natural self and rise in Christ, this is one natural setting that we are called to shed. The natural setting of leaning on the Power and Authority Model of Leadership. To me, “headship” applied in this spirit of Servant Leadership is a great healer, a great balancer, and will result in peace and prosperity. On the contrary “headship” practiced in the spirit of Power and Authority model of Leadership will continue to result in frictions and abuse and violence and pain and suffering.
Further study of the Bible shows me that it is not only the husband-wife, or male-female relationship where “headship and submission” could become a problem. There are as many as 11 relationships where the concept of “headship and submission” is called for.
1. All creation is called to submit to God (Jas 4:7; Heb 12:9).
2. God is the head of Christ (1 Cor 15:28, 1 Cor 11:3).
3. All creation has been put under the headship of Christ (1 Cor 15:27-28;Heb 2:2;Eph 1:20-23;Phil 3:21;1 Pe 3:22)
4. Church is asked to be submissive to Christ (Eph 5:24)
5. Church is also asked to be submissive to it’s leaders (1 Cor 16:16; 1 Th 5:12;Heb 13:17)
6. Children are called to be submissive to Parents (Eph 6:1-4; Col 3:20-21; Lk 2:41-52; 1 Ti 3:4)
7. Young men are asked to be submissive to Older men (1 Pe 5:5)
8. Slaves are required to be submissive to Masters (Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-24; Tit 2:9-10; 1 Pe 2:18-20)
9. Citizens are called to be under the headship of Government (Rom 13:1-6; 1 Pe 2:13-15; Tit 3:1)
10. Every Christian is asked to be submissive to Others (Eph 5:21)
11. Wives are asked to submit to the headship of Husbands (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; Tit 2:5; 1 Pe 3:1-7; 1 Cor 11:3)
I want to you sit back and imagine the world where servant leadership concept is applied in all these 11 and may be more relationships. Where the “Head” of the relationship practices true Servant Leadership. Won’t such a world be close to the world that we all hope for? Won’t that be the world which is described in Rev 21:9 – 22:5?
Do we need more reasons to embrace Servant Leadership and apply it in our day to day lives?
I am by no means suggesting that this is easy. Let me close with a personal testimony. Three Sundays back, on the 10th of January 2010 (I am going to remember that Sunday for a long time to come), Ashish preached a beautiful sermon on the 9 Fruits of the spirit, 9 graces, as he called them, from Galatians 5:22-23. As in the case of many of you, I was touched by the sermon. After the sermon, some of us got into some administrative discussions and I did something that surprised (and embarrassed) many, including my wife and son, and was to make me feel horrible later. I lost my temper, lost my self control, I became impatient, I got uncontrollably angry, and in short, I did everything against the 9 graces that was preached just 10 minutes back. For those of you, who have seen me or heard me, or heard about the incident, I want to offer a public apology on my behaviour. The point I want make is this. It is easy to sit and listen to a great sermon and be impressed about it. It is easy to sit down, and prepare a sermon (it takes effort though), but it is not easy to apply what we hear in our lives. But let us be reminded of Jesus’ call given in John 13:12-17 12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13″You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Our Lord who gave up His life on the cross, so that we might have eternal life, is calling us this morning to follow his example of Servant Leadership in all walks of our lives. What is our response going to be?
Let us Pray.
Galatians 5:16 (The Message Bible)
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
Now, may the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen
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