“That Hideous Strength” is the last in CS Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. It’s aa grim and shocking read if you are used to the Narnia stories or even the first two of the science fiction books. Central to the plot is the severed head of a man which some involved in the project is still projecting his brain and personality but has in fact been possessed by demonic forces.
In Ephesians 5:20-33, Paul in effect takes us to another example of a headless body when he writes:
29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.
Now, in the imagery here, the church is the body over which Christ is the head and implicitly in the home context, we have the husband as head and wife as body. The point is that the head seeks to love and care for the body. This means that Christ’s headship means he has authority over us but uses that authority to protect us and care for us. Paul is arguing here that rather than a husband seeing his wife as there to serve him and using headship to lord it over her, he should love her like he loves his own body and care for and provide for her.
Now, that has much to say about marriage. The Bible knows no place for abusive relationships where husbands treat their wives as their skivvies, there to meet their every whim. However, I also think it has much to say to elders in the church. We talk about them having authority in the church and that is correct because the Bible gives them that teaching authority in order to lead local congregations.
However, if this leads to us thinking of elders having headship in the local church under the ultimate headship of Christ, the chief shepherd, then this means that we need to be reminded that the purpose of such a position is in order to care for the church, to provide for it and to protect it.
If people go into eldership positions expecting to benefit from the church, so that it serves them with financial support, praise and status, with a platform from which to preach, then they’ve missed the purpose of eldership; when they use that position to exploit, abuse, lecture; when their concern is self-preservation, then they have missed the point of being an elder.
Elders should follow the example of Christ, seeking to serve not to be served. If we are to change the culture and deal with the problems of abuse and bullying that are currently being reported on then we need to start with the attitudes and motivations of elders. And that means we need to choose our elders wisely.