Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Headship of Christ

I’ve been thinking about the idea that Christ is the head of the Church.

Sometimes the church seems to think of Christ’s headship in terms of the Governor-General as head of Australia. It is a ceremonial sort of function, someone to wheel out on important occasions, or to refer to in times of crisis. With Governor-General Jesus in place the church can get on with its own activities, acknowledge his presence, but basically hope to goodness that he doesn’t interfere too much. After all, the Prime Minister (read: Pastor) and his Cabinet (read: Pastoral team) is where the real headship responsibilities lie.

Sometimes we think of headship along the lines of a river where the head of the river is the source of life. It could be argued there are some strong theological reasons for adopting this view, but there still seems to be something lacking. While we recognise the river will run dry if the head of the river is dammed, as long as things are ticking over nicely, the river can meander down the valley without any specific direction from the head.

It would seem to me that the picture of the head in Scripture is more specifically related to the human body. When you meet a person for the first time they can tell you a lot about themselves, but you will generally draw some immediate opinions about the person through the features on their head – their eyes and mouth may tell you more about them than their words. If a person goes missing the police issue a description of the missing person and apart from height, weight and clothing details, the features of the head are the key to identification – their hair colour, facial hair, eyes and skin colour. Usually a photograph of the missing person is just a picture of the face not the whole body.

When a person who is not a Christ-follower meets the church the first thing they will look for is the head – to see if the eyes and mouth indicate trust, acceptance, friendship and safety. However, usually the first thing they see is the feet or the hands: active, busy, creative, tired, resting, lazy, useful...

What do we really mean when we say that Christ is the head of the Church?

If Christ is the head of the church, in the same way a human body has a head, it should have a profound impact on how the body operates.

It should affect the way people see the church. We talk about the church as being Christ’s body and seem to have a surgical view – that somehow the body is just the part south of the neck. But a living body includes the head, so when we talk about the body of Christ, it is necessary to include the head in the image and to think about what people see.

What I am saying is that people’s idea of the church shouldn’t be just based on what we do, it should be based on something deeper. I would suggest that people’s values and priorities become like the eyes because that gives a deeper entrance to understanding what makes the whole body tick. The criticism of hypocrisy is so often levelled against the church because people hear our words of love, but they look into the eyes and see something else.

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