Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What is "Male Authority?"

8 Myths About Male Authority (and 8 Truths)
By Joel Hunter
God has given men a unique role as leaders of our homes and families. But how do we reconcile this in a culture that has become reactionary against men exercising biblical authority?

We live in a society that is pushing for male sensitivity and female strength. That's fine. But much of the current societal norms are a reaction to a perverted idea of God-given male authority. If men could understand the authority God gives to them, they would not have to surrender to the culture's emasculation of their role. If wives could understand their husbands' roles, they would see that support of their husbands' leadership would make themselves more free and secure, not less.
Many Christian men today are wimps. They hate themselves for it, and women do not respect them because of it. So, let me remind you of eight ways that our culture perverts the biblical understanding of male authority … then we will see the list of how a “real man” exercises his authority.
Myth #1: Male authority means male dominance. Men must understand that mature masculinity in Scripture has to do with our strength to serve and sacrifice for the good of the woman. Luke 22:26 gives the general servant-leadership paradigm: “'But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant'” (NLT). Ephesians 5:25 gives the home version of it: “And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church.”
Myth #2: Exercising strength leads to abuse. The strength that is shaped to provide and protect will not turn to hinder and hurt. They are two different mentalities. Just like muscle does not turn to fat (though sometimes it appears like that), they are two different types of body tissues. When we don't exercise strength in the right way, we will lapse into throwing our weight around in the wrong way. “If you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face” (Rom. 12:8, The Message).
Myth #3: Men need to be more feminine to be sensitive. Was Jesus being more feminine when He sensed the woman who touched His garment being healed? Or when He commanded the disciples to let the children come to Him? Do not men have their own way of sensing the needs around them? If you stand in between my grandchildren and me, I'll guarantee you that I will not become more “feminine,” precisely because I am sensitive to them.
Myth #4: For women to be empowered, men must be disempowered. Paul did not need to become less powerful for Lydia to host the first church. Aquila did not need to be written out of Scripture for us to appreciate Priscilla. Indeed, one of the ways women are most empowered (like the woman at the well in John 4) is for a man (Jesus in that case) to use his strength to respect her. We insult women to think that they cannot deal with strong men. Indeed, we underestimate women when we think that they would rather control men than be the recipient of a strong man's love and respect. Strong women can “talk back” (that's what “helper” means in Gen. 2:18) and work right alongside a strong man.
Myth #5: We shouldn't raise our boys to enjoy “manly” activities. Not too many decades ago boys could play cowboys and Indians, army or contact sports without us worrying that they were growing up to be racist or right-winged warmongers or violent. Boys were taught to hunt in case they needed to survive in the wild. It made them more confident and more appreciative of nature, not more dangerous. The Scripture does not forbid those “adversarial” activities (soldiers, hunters, athletes) that build in strength or teamwork.
Myth #6: We need to feminize God in order to not favor men. The whole “God is a she” movement is ridiculous. Spirit has no gender, but we do not need to hide the fact that the biblical terms for God are masculine ones. We do not need to feminize “Our Father” in order to be brothers and sisters of equal value, standing and usefulness to Him.
Myth #7: If men lead in the home, then they will be free to boss women around in all society. Actually, male servant-leadership is not about “bossing” anyone around anywhere. The servant-leadership that a man is given in the home does not extend beyond it into society. So male responsibility for leadership in the Christian home (see Eph. 5:23) cannot be projected into business or government or any other societal institution.
Myth #8: Authority is about making declarations, not taking personal responsibility to see them through to a beneficial end. Wrong! Men have a terrible reputation for being opinionated without being responsible.
If there is anything clear about the Holy Spirit following the life of Jesus, it is that God follows through. God did not just issue commandments and leave us on our own. He came to help us practice them. The God who came to live with us and in us, the God who said “Lo, I am with you always” is our model for leadership. We can follow that example by staying close to those we lead and assisting them.
Being real men is not just about gender; it is about spiritual maturity in all areas of life. Therefore, manhood is about our calling and not about any competition with women.
Truth #1: We have a gender-unique leadership role in our marriages. 1 Corinthians 11:3 says: “But there is one thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ, a woman is responsible to her husband, and Christ is responsible to God” (NLT). Then, in verse 8 it says: “For the first man didn't come from woman, but the first woman came from man.” I don't know why God made this arrangement. In many ways our wives are more competent than we are. Wise men will lean on their wives to decide many things for the family. In the end, it is not a matter of competence or even gender; it is a matter of following God's order.
When I was in grade school, my desk was closest to the door. That made me the leader for fire drills. Why was I the leader? Because I was more competent? No. Because I was a boy? No. It was because the teacher said so.
Truth #2: We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and give ourselves up for her. Our authority is for sacrificing and protecting our wives, not for lording power over them. We don't need to be less strong to be a servant, nor do we need for our wives to be weak so that we can appear strong.
Truth #3: We are to train up our children without provoking them to anger (see Eph. 6:4). Our sense of authority must be strong enough to guide, correct and discipline our children (see Heb. 12:9) in a way that evokes respect and not anger. That takes an inner confidence that only comes with understanding the authority God has given us. I often told our sons when they were growing up: “It is not my favorite thing to discipline you, but it is the role that God gave me. Therefore, we will both do the right thing.” They are all great Christian men today, and dearly love their mom and me.
Truth #4: We are to conduct business with confidence and integrity (see Matt. 25:20-21). Men are not to be cowards when it comes to giving their all in the business world, nor are we to think of our capital as our own. Authority follows the man who has invested with Another in mind. Also, our wives are more likely to increase their respect for us when we have done our jobs with confidence and competence, using the authority we have in our arenas to produce profit for the good of all.
Truth #5: We are to provide leadership in the church after first prioritizing our household (see 1 Tim. 3:1, 4). Taking responsibility in the church is also a part of the authority we are to exercise. Of course, an overseer is a servant-leader. Taking responsibility to care for the church (God's family) is an expression of the authority God delegates to us.
Truth #6: We are to take the lead in battling that which could ruin our part of the world (see Gen. 2:15). Since the Garden of Eden, God has specifically given the man the mandate to “cultivate” (be productive) and to “keep” (be protective). The latter refers to the fact that even in a paradise, there are things that can creep in and ruin the good that has been produced. Therefore, the man has the responsibility and authority to guard his house and his family (and sometimes his workplace and his country) from that which could harm or pollute its well-being.
Truth #7: We are to train other men who will train other men (see 2 Tim. 2:2). Our responsibility does not end with our family. We are charged with training up other mature men also, who will train others. This kind of authority, again, is not a dominating kind. The whole “accountability” dynamic has gotten distorted into “I'm your spiritual boss” silliness. Mentoring is support, teaching and guidance for those who desire that kind of leadership in their lives.
Truth #8: We are to complement our wives in their leadership roles in family, church and society. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him'” (NAS). Helper does not mean weak. Which is stronger: the one who needs the help or the helper?
Therefore, part of our authority comes from listening to our wives. Another part of our authority is to empower and serve them so that they can also be leaders in the family, the church and society.
When we men remember that all of life is stewardship-that is, the management of God's goods for Him-we will not use the delegated authority we have in an arrogant or prideful way. We will use our authority to lift up others, as Christ did for us.

Joel C. Hunter, D. Min., is pastor of Northland - A Church Distributed, located in central Florida. His wife, Becky, is thrilled to have him as leader of their home ... unless he tries to buy another yellow Jeep.