Servant Leaders

It's the question everyone is asking. My barber asked me. My doctor asked me. A flight attendant on a plane this weekend asked me. The question: "Why do Southern Baptists want to put women back in chains?" They're referring of course to the statement adopted last week by the Southern Baptist Convention, which says simply, "A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ." Well, from the outrage this statement has generated, you'd think Baptist men were trying to turn their spouses into Stepford Wives. Newspaper columnists have called the statement "unreasonable" and "ignorant," and likened it to slavery. Some pastors have disowned it. Well, this statement has been badly misunderstood. Put aside the hysteria for a moment about putting women in chains and examine what the Scripture really says about the marital relationship. The Bible tells husbands to exercise servant leadership, and what it means is that they are to treat their wives the way Christ treated the church. How did Christ act toward the church? He gave up his life for it. Now, what is the human response to someone who leads in this way? If someone is willing to lay down his life for you, you will want to follow him. This isn't some oppressive formula. It is a fundamental principle that applies to all human relationships. I've experienced it in my own life. When I was in prison, my friend Al Quie, then a congressman from Minnesota, offered to serve out the rest of my prison sentence so I could be home with my family, which was in need. Three days later the judge set me free, but I was so deeply affected by Al's willingness to take my place that ever since I have looked to him as a spiritual mentor, one I'm accountable to. I do this in part because I know he was willing to serve me. Of course, this teaching, like any other, is open to abuse. "Submission" doesn't mean domination." And it certainly doesn't mean men have the right to abuse their wives, as some critics have claimed. In all the brouhaha over the "s" word, submission, many newspapers have overlooked the rest of the Southern Baptist statement. It says: "The husband and wife are of equal worth before God," and, the "husband has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family." For 3,500 years, biblical leadership and the natural order of most civilized societies have accepted this as given. But this week's attack on the Southern Baptists shows how we've turned things upside down, how far we have come in the postmodern mindset which attacks all authority. The Bible and the natural order have become offensive. Well, when we hear these snide remarks about Stepford Wives and slavery, we Christians ought to stop shrinking in our corners and making excuses. We ought to stop claiming, as some Christians are doing, that Scripture doesn't mean what it says. We ought to explain these difficult teachings to our fellow Christians and our unsaved neighbors. The Southern Baptists remind us that marital submission is a two-way street and it's the right way for families to live. Servant leadership means, as one Baptist leader put it, that husbands should "put family before work and put their wives before their golf games." Sounds pretty sensible to me.


Chuck Colson



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