“Obey” Your Leaders?
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I believe that every member of The Body of Christ is a full and equal peer under ONLY Jesus. I contend that all Christ followers are true siblings and that no believer ever has the “rule” over and above other believers. Many in the traditional “church” believe in Ruling Elders and that only the Clergy are to be in charge over the church. I say that ONLY Jesus is The Head, Ruler and true Shepherd of His Church.
It seems that most traditional “church” Pastors disagree with my stance on church leadership. I mention these Pastors here because they often quote Hebrews 13: 17 as a validation of having humans rule over others in the church. Today I want to take an honest look at that verse and determine what it might really mean to all of us in His Church.
We are going to look at several English translations of that particular verse. However, there is no real good substitute for the Greek. I took over three years of Koine Greek in college, but that was over 25 years ago. Now with the Internet and computer tools we can all finally delve into real meanings that can be very eye opening. For example;
Hebrews 13:17a Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: – KJV
Hebrews 13:17a Obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them [continually recognizing their authority over you] – Amplified
Hebrews 13:17a Keep constantly obeying your rulers, and constantly be
submitting to them – Wuest
The Amplified and Wuest both do a better job bringing in the concept of
continuing action that is only implied in the KJV
However, translators that want to appease the King and Church (or today get endorsements that increase sales) do not want to “rock the traditional boat”. King James would never endorse a translation that did not support hierarchy and “men” ruling over other “men”. The King James translators were biased towards human leadership and rule in the church because they knew the King could have their heads if their words did not support Kings and Clergy.
Let us look at three Greek words that are prominent in this verse:
Peitho – persuasion
Hegeomai – chosen leader
Hupeiko – military term to stop fighting after a loss
Then taking the Greek into full consideration the verse should read like this:
Hebrews 13:17a Stop resisting and allow yourself to be persuaded by
those you have chosen to follow.
Now that translation of the Greek seems to me, to better line up with what Jesus showed us about true leadership in the church. It also comes more into line with what Paul taught about authority in the church. This translation makes the whole concept of leadership more relational, as it should be. Instead of being ruled and made to obey someone in a position of power over us, we instead have the freedom of choice to be persuaded by someone we want to follow because of the life we have seen them live before us. This is not being commanded or told what to do by someone with a title or position. This is us voluntarily wanting to follow someone we love, know and appreciate because we have a relationship with them. In a free church submission is always voluntary and never forced. We should never be forced to follow anyone’s lead, even if they are licensed, ordained and have a title that makes them sound important. Jesus does not force us to follow Him, so why should we ever follow ANYone who tries to force us to submit, listen to and follow them because of position or title? True submission occurs when we realize that someone has laid down their life for us and that they are acting in our best interest in any given situation. It is always about relationship and never about power, manipulation and control.
In most traditional “churches” Leadership is always top heavy and always top down. That is not the way that it should be among us followers of Jesus. Jesus led by example as did Paul and others. In the church it should never be about edicts or commands from those in recognized Leadership. The two main things I always look for in someone I might follow are love and humility. The reason I follow any peer is that I see that they are following Christ Jesus. As Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” A true leader does not seek to lead, no they seek to follow Christ alone. Leadership, true leadership, is merely a quite simple by-product of following and abiding in Jesus.
Love and ……
Kirk Out !