This semester in my Hermeneutics class I was asked to write an exegetical paper based on a certain passage of Scripture which posed an interpretive issue. I chose the passage of Jephthah’s tragic vow in Judges 11. From his very emergence in Judges 11, Jephthah allowed others to define his identity: although a mighty warrior, he was run out of town by his brothers for his illegitimate birth; he was known for the “worthless fellows” he kept as friends; even his commission as judge was defined by the elders of Gilead rather than by God. His leadership was defined by insecurity as well: his lack of faith in the Spirit’s empowerment led to his foolish vow which ended in the sacrifice of his daughter. Thus, we are presented with a picture of the quintessential weak leader in the Jephthah narrative.
Now, in our contemporary, Christian culture, we continue to face a problem of weak male leadership. As a single, young woman striving to glorify God in all that I do, I am struck by the absence of like-minded young men who provide righteous and holy leadership in male-female interactions. Instead of men establishing boundaries and modeling personal holiness which stem from a personal commitment to Christ, we are presented with men who allow us to call the shots and determine what is appropriate and God-honoring.
I am reminded of Elisabeth Elliot’s love story with Jim Elliot, which she recounts in Passion and Purity. Throughout the book, she features letters Jim wrote to her throughout their 5-year, long-distance “courtship”, and I am constantly struck by Jim’s leadership in their relationship’s progression. He modeled a life and heart completely devoted to God, which inspired, challenged, and encouraged Elisabeth Elliot as a result. We often talk about the role of the submissive wife, and the importance of serving and helping our mates, which are our God-given opportunities as women. However, we must not forget that the man is supposed to be the head who sanctifies and glorifies her as Christ does his church. When Paul describes Christ’s function as the head of the church, he says that the head causes the body to grow. That is the language of leadership.
Admittedly, the Ephesians passage about submission and leadership pertains to a marriage relationship. But if you don’t think these qualities belong to the young single man, then take a look at the book of Proverbs: the first 9 chapters are filled with a father’s instruction to his son on how to walk in the way of wisdom and purity. We always talk about being the Proverbs 31 woman, but where are our Proverbs 2 men?
Grace be with you.