Jesus Christ, Servant Leader?

(Note: The use of “game” terms below is tongue-in-cheek, to make a contrasting point about what Jesus didn’t do. This is not an argument that Jesus “gamed” His followers.)

Dalrock recently posted a quote that included the term “servant leader,” which is being used by modern Churchian preachers who claim that “male headship” somehow actually means letting your wife tell you what to do and trying to make her happy by taking over the household chores.

I thought of that this morning during the Gospel at Mass, as it was the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 by multiplying  fishes and loaves.  It occurred to me that that is a good example of “servant leadership,” but is it what these feminized leaders mean by the term?  Let’s see (selected verses from John 6):

[2] And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased.

So first of all, these thousands of people were following Jesus because they saw him doing numerous miracles.  They were so awed that they followed him for miles, forgetting to even think about what they would eat.  Massive amounts of alpha cred built up, in game terms, before we even get to the main event.

[5] Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”
[6] This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Now he’s basically messing with his disciples, testing them, AMOGing them.  He knows what he’s going to do, but after they say it’s impossible, it will be that much more awesome.

[10] Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”

He just told 5000 hungry people to sit down, and they did it.  Obviously there’s no question in the mind of anyone present that he is fully in charge.

[11] Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

Now, is he being a servant here?  Absolutely.  Not only does he create the bread and fish for them to eat, but it says he distributed them; he didn’t leave that to his disciples.  But it’s a very specific situation, because he’s prefiguring the Eucharist here by giving thanks and distributing bread to the people.  It’s not really about their hunger; if that were the case, then knowing this was coming, he could have made sure they brought enough food.  He’s doing it to prepare his disciples for what’s coming later in the chapter: “I am the bread of life….He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.”  He’s doing it for a purpose much greater than this one event.

[12] And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.”

After that specific, symbolic act of servitude, he goes right back to being the leader, giving orders to his disciples.

[15] Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Then he made himself scarce.  He didn’t stick around to see how well the miracle had strengthened their faith or their love for him; he let his actions speak for themselves and continued on with his mission.

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So, how does that translate to the normal suburban hubby who feels like his wife is losing interest in him, so his pastor says he should surprise her by doing the dishes and the laundry “because Jesus served his people”?  Well, doing the chores for her may increase her attraction if all the same things are true:

  • He’s established himself so strongly as the leader that she willingly follows him anywhere and sits when he says sit.
  • He can tease her and ask her rhetorical questions without annoying her at all.
  • He does the chore for a specific reason of his own, not to make her happy.
  • When he’s done, he doesn’t ask her how she feels about it; he goes on with his own stuff.

If that’s the situation, then by all means give it a try.  But if that’s the situation, you don’t need to!  The guys who are trying this are the ones for whom none of that is true.  Let’s turn the analogy around the other direction:

A crowd of people have been following a guy (we’ll call him Brian) because they thought he was the Messiah, but they start to realize they were wrong.  (Like a married woman starting to lose interest in her husband because he doesn’t fit the fantasy she initially created around him.)  They follow him for miles and start bitching that he hasn’t done enough for them lately.  Brian asks what they want, and they say food.  He says that if they’ll sit down (which they do, grumbling because he didn’t bring any chairs, he never thinks ahead) he’ll cook supper.  (He’d better be able to produce the food at this point, or he might become supper.)  Afterwards, he points out to them how he saved them, and asks if they love him again like they used to.

No one’s going to try to carry Brian off to make him their king.  Sure, they’ll eat the food, but they’ll probably gripe that the bread was dry and the fish needed tartar sauce, and next time they’ll expect sides of baked beans and cole slaw.  Likewise, no wife of Brian’s is going to love him more because he does chores for her in that kind of context, trying to be a “servant leader.”

What’s the lesson from this?  If you want to serve your wife — and there’s certainly a sense in which you should — you have to be her leader first.  Your service must come from a position of strength.  You’re cooking tonight not because you have to, not because she wants you to, but because you want to for your own reasons.  You have to be doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  If you’re doing it to try to make her happy, or because you’re hoping to “earn” reciprocation in the form of sex, you’re doomed.

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4 thoughts on “Jesus Christ, Servant Leader?

  1. That men must be leaders before being servants is largely absent in modern Protestant teaching. Usually it is presented as the husband having to serve in order to lead.

  2. Game terminology is just reframing of age-old knowledge to apply in today’s society. Before they called it “being alpha”, they called it “charisma”. (Before the D&D crowd ruined that term by misunderstanding it.) In that sense, Jesus *did* “game” his followers – he attracted them by being charismatic. Being the Son of God helps with that, and with performing miracles, but plenty of ordinary humans led similar sorts of movements, by acting the same way.

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