A giant wave threw Odysseus overboard and shattered his homemade raft. Driven for two nights and days on the raging sea, he clung to a single piece of the wreckage. Finally he was tossed onto a rugged, unknown shore. Exhausted, he fell asleep.
The next morning a beautiful maiden finds him. She awakens him and promises to lead him into the city where he will find a safe haven at her father’s house. When he arrives at the city another maiden (also beautiful, no doubt), helps lead him to the house of safety. What a fortunate thing for Odysseus to have people who will lead him!
The Greek word that means “I lead” is hegeomai (hay GEH o my). It is found four times in the New Testament in the participle form that is translated “leaders.” When Paul and Barnabas went to the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15:22, for instance, the church chose two men who were “leaders among the brothers” to go with them.
The other three uses of this word as “leaders” are found in Hebrews 13. Leaders are described (v. 7) as those who “spoke the word of God to you” and have an “outcome of their way of life” that is worthy for the readers to imitate. Leaders are further described (v. 17) as those who “watch over you as men who must give an account.” Leaders are to be greeted (v. 24) as part of – not separate from – all God’s people.
The readers are told to “obey your leaders” and “submit to their authority.” (As noted in an earlier column, this literally says “be persuaded by your leaders” and “be submissive.”) Their only “authority,” the word not actually stated in the Greek text, is the strength of influence the leaders have because they are identified with speaking the word of God and because they are seen as people who live a life worth imitating.
Leaders are put in place to watch over God’s people (see Acts 20:28). Their job is lead, guide, and direct the people by teaching them God’s word and showing them the godly life. Their job is to lead people from the shipwreck and despair of sin to the Father’s house of safety. What a fortunate thing for God’s people to have men who will lead them!