There is a difference between leadership and shepherding.
Leadership is a talent, a gift and calling from God. Most of us can do a little of it, but people who excel at it are somewhat rare. It may manifest with a lust for control, but that’s actually quite rare among leaders. Good leaders give a group shape and structure that matches the mission, always with their own personal imprint in how they do it. Too many institutions assume mission or subject matter expertise is all that’s needed, and most institutions are poorly led. You’ll notice that we haven’t had a really good president in the US in very long time, never mind any particular partisan interests.
Shepherding is the character of our Savior. If you know Jesus, you are a shepherd. Further, the heart-led way is best understood as shepherding. We are designed by God to shepherd Creation on His behalf, so no one is exempt. It’s not the same as leadership; it’s something rooted in the human existence. We are designed to live by love and compassion, and when we stand in a strong position, we cannot avoid operating in compassion. By default, we can all be mommies and daddies, and that’s the root of shepherding in the human soul. You aren’t complete as a human if you can’t parent.
In the Bible, the basic social structure of all Creation is feudal, and that means familial. Everything is personal and connected. While there are plenty of things you may be ill-equipped to handle expertly, but we have no excuse for withholding compassion. We are all experts at caring in one way or another. Thus, it is our duty to God to discern what we should care about.
Furthermore, Creation is distinctly binary in the sense of gender. You are either male or female. We can debate what that should mean in any given social context, but the Bible is relentless about embracing and appreciating what sex God made you to be. There is a distinct moral mandate attached to it, a non-optional role to play — shepherd or shepherdess. Both are essential to the proper balance of things.
And it is inevitable that we should find ourselves in conflict with society on this issue. A world that rejects Biblical Law cannot get this right. The Bible assumes that the world will always bear an element of rejecting both the clear division between roles, as well as what the roles demand. I’ve already published a couple of books about this, so we won’t rehash the details here.
What I do need to cover is something that isn’t so obvious in the context of this series. Biblical Law presumes the heart-led way, and the heart-led way presumes that you are in touch with your whole self as part of being in touch with Creation. It’s not a question of health and fitness as our broken society imagines it, but a matter of being fully connected to your calling and purpose so that you know your divine duty. Physical fitness is all about having your body fit your calling.
We are all obliged to have an interest and some knowledge about this. It’s mandatory; you cannot exercise the full power of the heart-mind if you pay no attention to what your body has to say about itself. It’s all one organism and we distinguish the various aspects and parts only for academic discussion. The heart puts mind, body, soul, emotions, and everything in their proper place as one united entity serving God’s purpose. Everyone has to be aware of how to talk about such things.
In particular, the question is not fixing things, but learning how God intends you to live in this fallen world. That’s what Biblical Law is all about. There are some health issues you can improve and some you just have to live with, and no one person can tell you where the balance point is. You are required by God to examine the issues and know His will for you. And that extends to His will for your shepherding of others.
How can a man shepherd his household if he is ignorant his wife’s health issues? This is implied as part of that passage where God says men should rule their households well (1 Timothy 3). I note in passing that the offices of deacon and deaconess are the goal for everyone in the congregation, not just the called leaders.
Further, it is a potential, and perhaps an eventuality, that every man and woman be ready to stand as elder. The surviving competent head of household among both sexes is how elders are chosen. Someone has to make certain decisions, and men in particular have to provide the moral covering of God. How can a man cover what he has not bothered to understand? Men, if you are or expect to be married, you cannot let this slide — two shall become one flesh. Her flesh is your own body, so pay attention and nurture. No one says you have to be a general expert, but if you aren’t paying attention and reaching for what you can grasp, you have already failed.
You should assume this works both ways, ladies, but I note from experience that women seem to grasp this instinctively despite American culture. That same culture promotes by presumption that men would be ignorant of their spouse’s and children’s health issues. Their welfare is your welfare. Men, you can’t shepherd if you don’t watch the health of your flock. This is not a specialty, but a generality. Sit down with your family; tell them about the power of the heart. Then, from time to time consciously reach out to them with your heart-mind and simply sense where their souls are, and pray for their well being. This works even better if they are within the physical proximity for heart wave entanglement (20-30 feet; 6-9 meters).
This is a critical part of our testimony, an undeniable element in our shalom.