Read Hebrews 13:7-17. What should be our relationship with our leaders?
Hebrews 13:7-17 contains an exhortation to respect and obey the leaders of the congregation. It begins with an invitation to “remember” those leaders of the past who spoke the word of God to them, and it closes with a call to “obey” the leaders in the present (Hebrews 13:17).
The leaders of the past are most likely those who first preached the word and founded the congregation. The call to “remember” them does not simply refer to a mental exercise of recollection nor to an external tribute honoring them. Paul explains that they are to “remember” them by considering the outcome of their conduct and by imitating their faith.
For Paul, the greatest act of remembrance and praise is emulation. In this way, Paul has added the founding leaders of the congregation to the list of faithful heroes whom believers should carefully consider. This list includes the heroes of faith of Hebrews chapter 11, and Jesus, the consummate example of faith, in Hebrews chapter 12. The author further notes that Jesus is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, ESV). He stands in stark contrast with false teachers who change with time and whose teachings become “various” and “strange” (Hebrews 13:9, NKJV).
The call to remember the leaders in Hebrews 13:7 is restated in more forceful terms at the end of the section. Believers are exhorted to obey the leaders, because they watch out for their souls. The leaders are described here as pastors who are in charge of the spiritual well-being of the congregation, their flock, and who will give an account to God for their spiritual state (see also 1 Peter 5:1-4, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Certainly, too, the idea should apply to all our church leaders, as well as to all levels of the denomination today.
The context also suggests that these leaders are under-shepherds who serve under Jesus, “the great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20). The combination of care and faithfulness from the leaders and obedience or trust from the members will result in joy. This may mean that the leaders will be able to serve the congregation with “joy,” or that they will give an account of the congregation to God with joy and not with grief.
|What can you do to strengthen or improve the leader-member relationship in your congregation, as well as with leaders around the world?|